Soy Phytoestrogens and the Art of Propaganda

admin, 23 January 2010, No comments
Categories: Nutrition
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In this newsletter we will discuss the current controversy about soy phytoestrogens. The established literature to date is replete with studies that find soy phytoestrogens beneficial to disease prevention including prevention of breast cancer. There is, however, some current literature coming from a publication know as Nexus Magazine which, for the most part, parrots the “literature” from the Weston A. Price Foundation. I have attempted to present this literature as I have found it.

A brief look at Weston and the Foundation …

The Weston A Price Foundation today is composed mostly of farmers and denies any relationship with any of the current beef and dairy lobbies or corporations.

Dr. Price was a dentist who died in 1948. He traveled the world studying the teeth of tribes far removed from civilization and made some correct observations about dental cavities and western eating habits. He extrapolated them to aging in general and, to some degree, he was correct. I totally agree that western eating habits cause premature aging and are responsible for most, if not all, of the epidemic of lifestyle disease we see today. When he died in 1948 the country was then just being taken over by the beef and dairy lobbies and a lot of important research regarding the dangers of meat and dairy had not been done. However, now some fifty six or so years later, we have a “foundation” that advocates meat and dairy even though Weston himself did not advocate dairy. I quote from one of the sites about him:

“These primitives with their fine bodies, homogeneous reproduction, emotional stability and freedom from degenerative ills stand forth in sharp contrast to those subsisting on the impoverished foods of civilization–sugar, white flour, Pasteurized milk and convenience foods filled with extenders and additives.”

However, in addition to the Foundation’s promotion of the ingestion of meat, there is even a movement from the “Foundation” that is suggesting that we drink whole unprocessed milk. Unpasteurized milk caused a lot of bovine type tuberculosis at one point, not to mention the risk today of transmitting Mad Cow Disease. This is the reason that milk was then, as it is today, Pasteurized. I think that movie has already been played once. Reminds me of being in Brown County, Indiana with my father who was a physician. His friend, Jim Huntsman, wanted to give me some unpasteurized milk and my father said no, politely … but no. No discussion of milk is complete without mentioning the late Dr. John Oski, head of the Department of Pediatrics of Johns Hopkins when he wrote, “Don’t Drink Your Milk.” Another book on milk by Jane Heimlich “Milk, the Deadly Poison” is another good read.

Perhaps one of the remote tribes that I don’t think Weston had the occasion to meet are the Bantu of Africa.

“The African Bantu woman provides an excellent example of good health. Her diet is free of milk and still provides 250 to 400 mg of calcium from plant sources, which is half the amount consumed by Western women. Bantu women commonly have 10 babies during their life and breast feed each of them for about ten months. But even with this huge calcium drain and relatively low calcium intake, osteoporosis is relatively unknown among these women.”

John McDougall, M.D.

This quote from Suzanne Havala, R.D.

“There is no human requirement for milk from a cow.” Suzanne Havala, R.D. author of the American Dietetic Association’s Position Paper on Vegetarian Diets

We would all like to think that Weston, if he was alive today and was as smart as they say he was, would look at the China study and the rest of the current information available today and realize that animal protein in any amount, from any source, is detrimental to one’s health.

Now, for some of the “studies” that form the basis for the “soy alert.”

We picked some of these studies at random from all the studies listed that “support” the soy alert from Nexus Magazine and The Weston A Price Foundation. We could have gone on literally for many days, if not months.

2002 Lephard ED and others. Neurobehavioral effects of dietary soy phytoestrogens.

Neurotoxicol Teratol 2002 Jan-Feb;24(1):5-16. Male mice fed diets rich in phytoestrogens had lower levels of maze performance than male mice fed diets free of phytoestrogens. (Opposite results were observed in female mice.) The results indicate that consumption of dietary phytoestrogens resulting in very high plasma isoflavone levels (in many cases over a relatively short interval of consumption in adulthood) can significantly alter sexually dimorphic brain regions, anxiety, learning and memory.

This one is really exemplary of the typical academic study that has been tailored to fit the “researchers” desired outcome. First, we are using extracted phytoestrogens. Before this study can even be discussed we need to know how the phytoestrogens were extracted and what “chemicals” were used to do so. Many laboratory extraction processes involve the use of very carcinogenic organic solvents. Second, the study was done in rats with an isolated isoflavone (phytoestrogen). Third, the researchers found by their own admission that the exact opposite effects happened in female rats, as opposed to the male rats. This data was conveniently ignored since it did not fit what the “researcher” had designed the study for. As is well known in Medicine and Research -any study can be tailored to have any outcome.

2003 Gardner-Thorpe D and others. Dietary supplements of soya flour lower serum testosterone concentrations and improve markers of oxidative stess in men. Eur J Clin Nutr 2003 Jan;57(1):100-6.

In a study carried out at University Hospital of Wales, male volunteers ate three scones per day in addition to their normal diet for a period of six weeks. The scones were made either with wheat flour or soy flour providing 120 mg per day of isoflavones (about the amount contained in 3 cups of soy milk). Researchers noted “significant improvements in two of the three markers of oxidative stress” and concluded that “these findings provide a putative mechanism by which soya supplements could protect against prostatic disease and atherosclerosis. However, testosterone levels fell in the volunteers eating the soy but researchers did not stress this alarming finding in their conclusion.

This study shows that actually soya flour, as they call it, did provide some protection against prostatic disease and atherosclerosis. Again, listen to the commentary, the researchers did not stress the lowering of the testosterone levels. A polite Duh … Why would they? The mechanism for the improved health in the volunteers is most likely the lowering of testosterone, much the same as breast cancer rates go down with decreasing estrogen levels in the female. Not to mention that Nexus advocates eating heavily estrogen laden beef in place of whole organic soy products. What sense does this make to you? Apply the rule of common sense here … if the results don’t make sense to the authors they simply twist it around and try to “buffalo” the reader into a “false” conclusion.

2003 Hartley DC and others. The soya isoflavone content of rat diet can increase anxiety and stress hormone release in the male rat. Psychopharmacology (Berl) 2003 Apr ;167(1) :46-53.

This report begins with the following statement: “Isoflavones form one of the main classes of phytoestrogens and have been found to exert both oestrogenic and anti-oestrogenic effects on the central nervous system. The effects have not been limited to reproductive behaviour, but include effects on learning and anxiety and actions on the hypothalamo-pituitary axis.” Noting that most rat chow contains soy, investigators compared the behavior of rats given isoflavones in their diets with those on an isoflavone-free diet. Rats fed isoflavones spent significantly less time in active social interaction and had significantly elevated stress-induced corticosterone concentrations. The conclusion: “Major changes in behavioural measures of anxiety and in stress hormones can result from the soya isoflavone content of rat diet. These changes are as striking as those seen following drug administration and could form an important source of variation between laboratories.”

This study really doesn’t prove anything. We have no idea how much isolated isoflavones were used and what relevance this study may have to whole organic soy products and human beings is not clear.

Another “scientific” relevation from the Foundation on cholesterol.

“Read Dr. Ravnskov

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