Soya - is it giving you cancer?
Things got a little awkward the other day when my vegan friend revealed she was trying for a baby. Turns out she had read she cant eat tofu as it lowers men's sperm counts.
This was news for me - on both parts. The baby and the tofu. Especially as her ex boyfriend was also sat at the same table...
But I thought that all soy foods were 'superfood'?
Turns out a few people had heard 'soy causes cancer, Alzheimers and leads to infertility'. In fact her ex boyfriend was also avoiding soy as he'd heard it could give him moobs.
So whats actually happening?
Hold tight, because if you like tofu or are having soy milk over dairy – concerns about the health effects of soy might be in your interest.
Its quite easy to see how we are all as confused as each other. In the last 10 years soya has been a bit of a buzz word for several main stream magazines and bloggers.
Soy beans are cheap, and one of the lowest calorie ways to get large amounts of protein with very little fat and absolutely no cholesterol. Best part is its always labelled as 'plant based' so
its a vegan dream
Soy is from soybeans. Tofu is one of the most commons sources of it, but you’ll also find it in dairy substitutes and vegan things like soy milk, cheese and food made for vegetarians and vegans like soy burgers and lots of quorn items.
But does that mean its good for us?
Soy is basically a plant based oestrogen. It contains two specialised proteins which act like oestrogen. Because oestrogen plays a role in everything from breast cancer to sexual reproduction this is where the soy controversy comes from.
I did a bit of digging and the effects of soy on cancer risks have been mixed.
Most of it comes from science experiments in japan ( because they eat loads more soy than people in western countries like the UK).
Soys connection to cancer is mostly complicated by other elements of peoples lives. Most women living in Asia have soy as their main source of protein. They will only eat tiny bits of beef, chicken, and pork — which means less animal fat and other possibly unhealthy things in these animal protein sources.
Its made even trickier because compared to the average woman in the UK , the average Asian woman:
eats more fresh vegetables
is closer to her ideal body weight
is more physically active
is less likely to consume significant amounts of alcohol
All of these other factors add up to give a healthier lifestyle and a lower overall risk of breast cancer anway!
The whole 'lowers your sperm count' story was actually partially true.
I mean, it came about from a daily mail article called 'Why a vegetarian diet may leave a man less fertile'. It also said research has shown eating tofu 'lowers your sperm count' I mean, it was a science experiment in america at least, but only of 99 men, who were mostly overweight who had already gone to a fertility clinic....
It only focused on soya intake, and so really, the Daily Mail claiming there was a link is misleading.
There seems to be more questions than answers about the role soy plays in our bodies, especially women's when it comes to menopause and breast cancer and
there are just so many misunderstandings.
Some studies link soy to an increase risk of breast and other forms of cancer but they're only the ones done in the lab, and on animals.
Because humans process soy differently to the animals they tested on ... it might not actually apply to people.
Studies looking at effects of soy on humans haven’t shown the potential for harm – yet.
The link between soy and cancer is evolving but more research is really needed, as it stands soy doesn’t appear to pose any cancer risk.
But there are some studies which actually show that soy reduces your risk of cancer.
Another study in Japan showed that hormone levels in men who eat soy daily could protect against prostate cancer.
The one fear story that everyone seems to believe is that
soy milk will cause high oestrogen and will feminise men
Despite all the hype, men naturally produce oestrogen too - just far less of it than women. Men actually do need these small levels to help their bones grow stronger. Several studies have been done in the UK and found that men's intake of soy didn't change their testosterone levels. at . all.
Knowing the real deal is important. Especially now that soy is much more common in our diets.
So should you avoid these foods or do you want to be eating more of them?
The best answer I can give you is to think 'whole' as in, as close to nature as possible so you don't get too much.