Yesterday my very good friend and long distance sister asked a few questions regarding veganism. Like any professional nerd, when I first looked into going vegan, I did so much research I could recite facts and statistics like a parrot. I did this work because I wanted to be able to defend myself against the firestorm that is my family and also so I could be knowledgeable for other people’s questions.
Over the past few months, although I am still very well versed in most things vegan, I have lost a bit of the factual knowledge I acquired when veganism was fresh and new for me. Granted, it is still very new as I have only been vegan for about six months, but lost upon me is the spongy plasticity of gaining vast amounts of knowledge and exact facts in favor of a general picture. Instead of saying “animal agriculture is responsible for 51% of all pollution” I usually just say “conventional animal farming is bad for the environment because it causes pollution.” Essentially I am saying the same thing, but the statistics present a more convincing picture.
The question my friend asked yesterday was regarding the adverse effects of soy products. I have heard these arguments in various health circles when speaking about the correlation of soy to cancer or “turning men into women”. I knew this was not true, but I forget the science of why this was so.
The arguments against soy stem from their components. Soy contains isoflavenoids which can mimic estrogen in the body and bind to thyroid hormone receptors. The argument is that it can cause hyperthyroidism and certain cancers. Actual evidence suggests that in the studies the people who got thyroid disease already had hypothyroidism to begin with and so a conclusion cannot be drawn linking the disease to the soy specifically.
Soy has also been shown to provide more cancer preventing effects in men and women regarding prostate and breast cancer. Only if the subject has a mutated gene already has soy been shown to speed the growth of cancer. Basically, you would get the cancer eventually anyway, soy just sped up the process. This can be said for many other foods as well. [Read the China Study]
There have been studies linking soy to formaldehyde but that was traced back to the plants in Indonesia where the soy was processed. Eating organic soy or soy from inspected plants will not have this problem.
People who have soy allergies should avoid soy just as people with gluten allergies should avoid gluten.
In regard to the comment about turning “men into women”, one study found that men experienced swollen breast tissue after consuming over twelve servings of soy PER DAY for the entire trial period. That is not something very possible for the average person.
I hope that cleared up some confusion. For more information see One Green Planet