Soya Debate

Read this interesting thread ‘til the end..

One Woman's Story on SOYA

‘This is my story as I have experienced it and my opinions are based on what I have read and felt.
I share them to warn other young health-conscious women who are unwittingly harming themselves and so that what I went through and what I am still trying to resolve has some purpose. It would make what I have gone through worth something.

In 1989 I graduated from high school in a small town in Texas. I couldn't wait to hit the big college city so I could begin to live my own life. One of the changes I wanted to make was to eat healthier.
My family wasn't big on tofu, yoghurt or fruits. I also didn't want to gain the freshman 15 pounds.
Once I moved to health-conscious Austin, Texas with its parks, hike and bike trails, and health food stores, I began to fortify my body with the best and healthiest foods I could find. Tofu was the main ingredient in every healthy dish I found and I bought soy milk almost every day because it was better than milk. I used it for everything from cereal to smoothies or just to drink for a quick snack. I bought soy muffins, miso soup with tofu, soybeans, soybean sprouts, etc. The literature in the health and fitness magazines said that soy protected you against everything from heart disease to breast cancer. It was the magical isoflavones and the estrogen-like hormones that all worked to help you stay young and healthy.

I wasn't healthy though. I looked great, I was working out all the time, but my menstrual cycle was off. At 20 I started taking birth control pills to regulate my menstrual cycle. One brand would work for a few months but then I would become irregular again. The doctors kept switching the brands and assuring me that I'd find the one that would work. In addition to this I began to suffer from painful periods. I began to get puffy - not fat, I wasn't gaining weight, but I was just getting rounder. It was as though I was losing my muscle tone. I wasn't looking as good as I had before, despite all my exercising. Mu moods were off and I was having hot flashes. I mistook all this for PMS since my periods were irregular. I had no way of knowing when I was going to begin my period. Now, I had started using soy when I was 19. The onset of these problems quickly began at 20. By the time I was 25 my periods were so bad I couldn't walk. The birth control pills never made them regular or less painful so I decided to stop taking them. I went on like this for another two years until I realized my pain wasn't normal.

In 1998, when I was 27 years old, my gynaecologist found two cysts in my uterus. They were the size of tennis balls. I was scared to death! I went through surgery to have them removed and thank God they were benign. The gynae told me to go back on birth control pills. I didn't. In 1998 he discovered a lump in my breast. Again I went through surgery and again it was benign. It was in November, 2000 that my glands swelled up and my gums became inflamed. Thinking I had a tooth infection I went to the dentist who told me that my teeth were not the problem. After a dose of antibiotics the swelling still did not go down. At this point I could feel a tiny nodule on the right side of my neck.
No one else could feel it. I told my mother I had thyroid trouble. This was based only on a hunch. She, along with others in my family, said I was being silly. No one in the family suffered from thyroid trouble. "What's a thyroid?" was what my friends would say. Going on a hunch, I saw a specialist who diagnosed me with Papillary Thyroid Carcinoma. After a series of tests he told me it was cancer.

My fiance and I sat stunned. I was dreading another operation but so far every lump had been benign. We were not prepared and I was so scared. We scheduled surgery right away. The specialist told us that it would only be after the operation that a pathologist would be able to tell us for sure if it was cancer. They found a tumour on my right lobe composed of irregular cells and another smaller tumour growing on the left, so the entire thyroid was removed. No harm was done to my vocal chords, no harm to my parathyroids but I now had an ugly scar and would be dependent on thyroid hormones the rest of my life. They told me that after undergoing radioactive iodine I would be safe and assured me that I could live a long life.

After treatment I began to search for the cause of all these problems. An x-ray I had done at age 8 was under suspicion, as was stress. Everything got blamed on stress, genes, maybe that time I tried to smoke a cigarette (I was never a smoker but tried once), maybe that summer when I was 25 and began to drink vodka and try mixed drinks ( I was never one for alcohol but wanted to know what the hype was about). I began to look for esoteric reasons like not being spiritual enough.

I never once thought it could be all the soy I had consumed for nearly ten years. After all, soy is so healthy. I never drank soft drinks, and even when I was under excruciating pain, never took aspirin or
headache medications. Maybe it was birth control pills. I came upon a web page that linked thyroid problems to soy intake and the conspiracy of soy marketed as a health food when in fact it is only a toxic by-product of the vegetable oil industry. This was insane, I thought. After all, the health and fitness magazines had said nothing about soy being harmful.

I visited an herbalist who was diagnosed with thyroid cancer in 1985. She informed me that soy was the culprit. She was a health-conscious individual who in her twenties fortified her diet with soy. A few years after that she had to have a hysterectomy due to cysts and other uterine problems. A few months later another acquaintance who had consumed soy came down with thyroid cancer. She was 27. A girl in England I met through the internet in a thyroid cancer forum had just undergone surgery and she was only 19. What was going on???? The research said that thyroid cancer was more common in older women, age 50 or older. It was said to be genetic or the result of nuclear fallout like in Chernobyl. Today I found out that yet another acquaintance, a health-conscious woman just found out she has thyroid cancer and she is only 29. I got on the internet and found breast cancer linked to the radioactive iodine given during treatment. This didn't seem true. As fearful as I am of anything nuclear, the treatment has been given for over 150 years. Breast cancer is linked to estrogen. What mimics estrogen in the female body? SOY! I am not a scientist but I know my body. I knew that there were changes going on and I did search for clues as to why, but I never suspected soy because until now I never once found a single article that stated soy could be dangerous. Evening primrose oil I heard taken in large amounts, vitamin A,C and E can make tumours grow if taken in large dosages, MSG, even tuna is harmful but never once SOY. Women who took soy prior to thyroid problems will continue to take it after if they are not aware of what soy actually does, what it contains and how it reacts in the female body. I think this is the reason that women with thyroid cancer often develop breast cancer later.

Now it all makes sense. If you trace the problems I have had, they are all related to hormones. Taking birth control pills I believe only added more hormones to my body that I didn't need. I believe it was the fruit, no smoking, no drinking, exercise and veggies that kept my first surgeries benign. I wasn't as lucky the last time. My co-worker is big into soy and I see her losing hair and gaining weight despite a walking workout during her break and after work, and apples and oranges for lunch. She just had cysts removed from her uterus too. I warn her to stay off the soy. I refer her to websites but until it is on the evening news on all four networks, women will suffer. I say what I can but at the Christmas potluck every dish contained soy in one form or another. Is it now the staple of the new American diet? Eat right, eat for health, eat to ward off cancer, AND IT'S SOY!

Back in 1994 I did have my thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) checked, again on a hunch. I was suffering from lethargic days, fits of depression, feeling off, and mild digestive problems. My TSH was a 6. A good physician, taking into account my symptoms, would have explored this. We are not always blessed with good physicians. Many don't know what a thyroid gland is, what it does or even where it is, and they miss important signs. By the way, today I have normal periods even though I am not on birth control pills and even though I have had to change my dosage of thyroid hormone since the thyroidectomy. I do not touch soy, haven't for two years.

Dear readers, please use my story in any way you can. There are so many young girls who are consuming soy because they think they are taking care of themselves, and women taking soy because they want to be healthy. It is so unfair that the information about the dangers of soy isn't more widely circulated. It is sad. Health is wealth and until 1998 no matter how badly things went "car breaking down, bills, bad dates" I felt comforted that I had my health. There are many out there who feel this way and it is a terrible blow when you realize you are not as healthy as you thought and that the information that you depended on was wrong.’

Dear Har Bhajan

thanks for your comprehensive reply. As I said, I have often heard people make reference to this story - I was at a workshop in Mozambique the other day on GMOs and someone brought this up there too. I thought to myself, well surely there would be incredibly high cancer statistics in the Chinese population if this was the case, but I did not have sufficient facts to argue.

Sat Nam


Hello J,

It is unfortunate that people have a tendency to give unqualified advice/input on topics that can be quite detrimental to small whole foods manufacturers such as ourselves. I refer in particular to Margie's comments, "I have long held the belief that soya products are not the ideal food... Most soya based products are made from GM soya..." It is deeply and totally justified to be suspicious of the vast food profiteering industry that is operating "out there".

 On the topic of GM soya, it was very encouraging to me to discover that Monsanto, the largest purveyor of GM soya, made a huge operating loss last year. The consumers are applying such pressure that presently the main victims consuming GM foods are animals. As consumers we must all demand that GM ingredients in foods should be listed.

 Finally, this particular e-mail that you forwarded to me has been brought to my attention before, and my response follows. I think it is important to categorise soya foods, and I have chosen 2 categories: traditional soya products and modern soya products. If you were to ask me my opinion on modern soya foods, I would reply much in the same vein as Margie has done. I am highly suspicious of their rating as food, because they are heavily processed chemicals masquerading as food and in particular the infant and baby formulas.

 One must also not lose sight of the fact that large food industries very much compete with each other for market share. For example, the meat industry in the USA might decide that it has been losing out to the soya bean industry, and thus a slur campaign is initiated, which culminates in an unverifiable e-mail such as the one which is doing the rounds at present. I do not wish to make light of the hazards attached to processed soya foods, but I do wish to defend the "clean" tofu and soya milk industry. Also I do not wish to discredit the writer of the original article, but I do want to question the overall ethics of the worldwide food industry, and the possibility that this may be part of an anti-soya smear campaign. There just are too many inferences in this and other articles that sound skewered – like a fake email business proposal. Who in their right mind would eat soya three times a day. Would a non-vegetarian have ambitions to eat meat three times?! So the cited health and fitness publications and industry supporting eating as much soya as possible sounds profoundly dodge.

I thank you for passing on the e-mails regarding the dangers of soya and having manufactured soya products for a long while, I would love to share with you my own experiences and findings.

Firstly, I must state that though I am in the soya industry, my motives and passion are health and vegetarianism. I have no interest in justifying the motives of an industry that uses marketing tools to sell unhealthy, damaging foods processed from the by-product of soya oil extraction. I have
turned down invitations to join the South African Soya Foods Association, attend their annual conferences and subscribe to their "mark of quality", because I do not believe that they represent your and my best interests. Their interest is in promoting the increasing consumption of soya foods, whether from GM sources or not. They are vested interests and they are selfish interests.

It must be borne in mind that the soya industry is millennia old; it is said that the Chinese have been making tofu for the past 2000 years. Tofu is made from soya milk, so it follows that the soya milk industry is equally old. The Chinese have been bringing us in the West sophistication in the form of
Acupuncture, Feng Shui, the Tao, Tai Chi, and all of the Martial Arts for decades, and I doubt that they would have pursued tofu for so many centuries (or soya products, generally) if they were a health risk. So I would like to attempt to put some perspective on the matter.

Soya beans represent a massive industry in the USA, with 2 main markets: soya oil and livestock fodder. Health? Perhaps at its inception in the West it was noted that it assisted in maintaining health and well-being in vast populations of easterners, but that is where such considerations ended. The fact is that the soya oil industry generates vast quantities of de-fatted soya cake which the industry did not want to discard and so looked for ways to process it and render it saleable. A process of heavy alkalinisation, acidification, and re-alkalinisation (or maybe it's the other way round) produces a product called soya protein isolates and texturised vegetable protein (TVP). They are found in infant formulas, soya milk, tofu, used as meat extenders; in fact, they are everywhere.

To my mind, they represent little more than health risk for all the reasons reflected in the e-mails
you forwarded to me. It is my belief that infant formulas made from soya protein isolates should be banned! It is my suggestion that if you know of anyone that uses them, that you try your utmost to convince them otherwise.

Furthermore, the soya bean industry is embracing biotechnology more and more. Sounds laudable but it’s just the facade for genetic modification. GM soya beans have been around for a while, and the subscribing food scientists will tell you that there is no evidence anywhere to indicate that GM products are bad for your health, but just like food irradiation, no one is researching that, and no one is likely to because it would take substantial funding to conduct research over many years and money is unlikely to materialise for that purpose.

I would only ever use soya products on a regular basis that are made freshly
from soya beans, and even then there are some inherent problems to consider.
The trypsin inhibitor and urease are two challenges present in all
but the useless, dry soya beans that need to be neutralised before they can
be considered healthy. Exposure to a high temperature is what achieves
that. Having done that, I believe that we have then produced a healthy
product that balances hormone levels, lowers cholesterol, and is a very
viable source of vegetable protein. We are well aware that the mild phyto-estrogens in soya in fact prevent our hormone receptors, both in women and men, to be susceptible to the docking on of xenestrogens – toxic substances that are in abundance in our environment and are carcinogenic. So a moderate consumption of tofu (2 – 3 times a week) are a respected preventative for hormonal cancers in men and women.

Soya bean sprouts should never be eaten raw! They must be stir-fried, at
least. Better still, use other types of sprouts, there are so many choices.
And, as is indicated in the one e-mail sent to me, don't OD on any foods;
eat a variety and eat them in moderation.

I am not a scientist, and I am not prepared to take on the soya industry
giants; they would just as soon sue me for everything as they would swat a
fly. But put things into perspective; don't be fooled by fancy packaging and
fancy marketing campaigns. If the ingredients listed on a food label give
you mental indigestion, trust yourself enough to know that they will in all
likelihood not be properly digested on a physical level.

I hope I have managed to shed some light on a tricky subject. I would
welcome any response for an on-going discussion.

Sincerely, Har Bhajan S.

EARTH PRODUCTS, Manufacturers of Tofu, Macrobiotics Importers & Wholesalers