College Green Magazine: Soy in Moderation, Benefits Minimal

To eat, or not to eat soy? That is the question many picky eaters, especially meatless vegetarians and animal-free vegans, have been asking themselves lately, as new food trends soar and spiral in this increasingly health-conscious world.

The legend of soy as an all-inclusive protein supplement to a diet lacking animal protein is just that –– a legend.

Studies continually affirm that soy can be a healthy addition to one’s diet, when consumed in moderation. Simply put, there are no assertions that an intensive soy diet is more beneficial for individuals than one diet deficient in soy; in fact, the opposite may be true.

“There’s just no clear answer to be had,” Dr. Ed Zimney said in a HealthTalk video on soy health benefits. “This is one of the most controversial areas in nutrition and nutrition science.”

Isoflavones, the main organic compound found in all soy products, have a particularly inconsistent effect on an individual’s health. Some people respond favorably to the compound, such as women who experience less severe hot flashes in the menopause stage with increased isoflavones in their diet. Others have reacted negatively to a large dose of this phytoestrogen, especially in thyroid deficiencies linked with metabolism, according to an online EatingWell article. Zimney does, however, negate the myth that all soy is detrimental to one’s health.

“It’s pretty clear that if you have a little bit of soy intake, say a soy latte or a little bit of tofu each day, this is not going to be a problem,” Zimney continued in the video. “The question is if you ingest a tremendous amount of soy – an infant being raised on soy milk formula, or a vegetarian who tries to obtain a tremendous amount of protein from soy products – the data are conflicting.”

Cancer research is another field currently experimenting with the validity of soy and its potential for cancer elimination.

“There’s been populations that we know, in Asia, where consuming soy shows a much less incidence of prostate cancer,” Dr. Yael Vodovotz of The Ohio State University Food Innovation Center said. “There’s been laboratory studies that show you can cure many of the cancers with soy.”

Nonetheless, one caveat remains with soy in treating cancers: “This is cancer progression, not cancer initiation.”

Vodovotz and a team from the Department of Food Science and Technology conducted a study analyzing the regression of prostate cancer in a clinical study of 32 men with increasingly progressive prostate cancer. Conducted over an eight-week period, this study specifically targeted the isoflavone compound and its different rates of metabolism found in two different soy-bread types: regular soy-bread and almond soy-bread.

“We developed some breads with some new techniques that actually delivered a heck-of-a-lot of soy in a couple slices of bread,” Vodovotz said. “The reason that we did this trial was that there was a lot of controversy in the literature about the compounds in soy, the isoflavones.”

The main difference between the two types of soy-bread tested –– the regular and the almond soy-bread –– had to do with the added almond compounds and their effect on the metabolic absorption of the isoflavone compound found inherently in the soy itself.

Vodovotz’s study is still in the final stages of evaluation, but the compliance rate with the trial’s participants attributed to its overall success in national soy-cancer research.

In terms of general dietary recommendations, moderation is a consistent theme in one’s diet construction, and soy is no exception. Because of its highly-contested reputation and unassured health effects, soy is recommended in minimal daily doses of one-to-two servings to avoid potentially hazardous health allergies or metabolic disturbances.

A diet inclusive of edamame, soy milk, or tofu each day in addition to a variety of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains is a much healthier, more holistic alternative to a highly processed, packaged-food diet –– all potential health effects aside.

Remember, as in every other aspect of life, balance is beneficial.

This story also appears on College Green Magazine