Soybeans Under Assault Assault on Soy, 2000 Edition:
What's Behind the Latest Scare Tactics

Over the last twelve months, a number of reports have come out which aim to shed doubt on the nutritional benefits of soy and criticize the U.S. Food & Drug Administration's new rules allowing nutritional claims by soyfoods manufacturers. Many of these arguments are dealt with in exhausting detail in The Lumen Book, which I authored in 1986. One chapter alone ("The Empire Strikes Back") tackles anti-nutritional claims quite specifically and debunks them in spades. New wrinkles, however, are being added to these unsubstantiated criticisms, the latest and most outrageous suggesting that tofu (a competing product to those made by Lumen Foods, but one we support, nonetheless) causes brain atrophy. Many people are being confused by the conflicting reports -- not only by the recent 20/20 news report, ("The Dark Side of Soy", 6/09/00), but repercussions from a report by the Pacific Health Research Institute (see "Too much tofu induces 'brain aging' study shows"). Together these reports have provided the greatest gris for the mill for those who have an agenda against soy. Among the latter "study's" conclusions: that tofu accelerates brain weight loss in aging users, that the more soy you use the more it impacts your mental abilities, that soy acts like a drug, not a food.

"(Soyfoods) are not nutrients. They are drugs..."

Dr. L. White

The purpose of this article (and its related links) is to provide confused readers with the indisputable facts that puts these latest claims to rest and allow the public to put such reports in context when compared to the large body of scientific evidence that contradicts White's findings.

Fifteen Years of
Responses to Historical
Anti-Soy Arguments

See our FAQ section for coverage on: baby formula | cancer & heart disease, phytate, oxylate, methionine, protease inhibitor, and thyroid functioning. Click on "Responses to Anti-Soy Arguments."
After recently reviewing a few of the studies on the adverse effects of soy, Alan R. Gaby, M.D., a nutrition professor at Bastyr University in Kenmore, Wash., stated:

"I certainly think caution is reasonable. Soy is probably beneficial in moderate amounts, possibly harmful in larger amounts."
(Editor: How many foods are there which are harmful when taken in large quantities - to the exclusion of a varied, balanced diet?)

Greg Caton, Founder, by Greg Caton

Although soybeans, as a distinct staple of human diet, have been with us for over 4,000 years, and their status as a "miracle food" is an accolade going back to ancient Chinese emperors, not modern American marketers, you'd think that soy was some new promotional gimmick. (Although ancient Chinese scholars referred to whole soybeans as one of the "five sacred grains," it was only introduced in any notable quantity to North America in the early 20th century.)
When I wrote The Lumen Book in 1986, I had to take on soybean's "criticisms de jour" and confront what were then the primary arguments against soy consumption -- that it was high in antinutritional phytates and oxylic acid, that its protease inhibitor was health-threatening, that it was too low in methionine, that it was Vitamin B12 deficient, that when substituting meat products it would lead users to protein deficiency, etc., etc., etc.
The Lumen Book = Original 1986 Edition Suffice to say, these arguments were based on small grains of truth that were blown up beyond real world recognition to make startling conclusions that later turned out to be not only false, but irrelevant. (Example: the vegetable kingdom, including soybeans, are FULL of compounds that act as mild sequestering agents and can inhibit some nutritional uptake, but in real-world terms they do not prevent people from getting plentiful nutrition, because their action is too weak. Despite ample scientific studies to show that these criticisms are not truthful, some publications keep publishing them.)
Part of the problem stems from the fact that specific groups, including The Weston A. Price Foundation, Soy Online Service in New Zealand, not to mention groups who tie virtual ALL soy to the current GMO controversy, generate much of the media around these reports. Some literally attack ALL soy as a product for human nutrition. The most vitriolic reporting comes from countries which import, rather than export, soy products -- turning soy into a trade defense issue. This is evident to see when reporting is so sloppy that some publications paint soy as poisonous, only to inadvertently include a link from their own institutions, educational or governmental, clearly refuting large chunks of their argument.

The worst part of this kind of reporting, however, is that it confuses the non-technical public. This article is being written because I have been confronted by several individuals in the past weeks who tell me that they question whether or not they should eat soy products. Never mind that soybeans are found in a vast array of consumer products. Never mind that infants have been consuming soy-based formulas for over 60 years with none of the problems arising to which these criticisms allude. Never mind that American farmers now plant over 75 million acres of soybeans, for both human and animal consumption, and that in less than 100 years, soybeans have gone from obscurity to become the leading North American crop. Never mind that the U.S. FDA reviewed many hundreds of studies prior to coming out with their findings on nutritional value of claims.

(Click to see book cover enlargement).
The Soy Zone by Barry Sears, Ph.D. The Soy Revolution by Stephen Holt, M.D. Recent books by dozens of noted clinicians and health professionals on the benefits of soy have contributed to a more coordinated campaign against soy in recent months by its competitors... and researchers seeking to obtain grants that might show contradictory findings.

In the links below we provide a number of documents (in Microsoft Word format) that address these recent anti-soy reports. As always, feel free to email us with comments on any of the enclosed content.
Soy & Cognitive Function (MS-Word format) - This SANA (Soyfoods Association of North America) document directly addresses Dr. Lon White's study and the ways it contradicts the body of research already conducted on dietary soy and cognitive function. (It should be noted that Dr. White has backpedaled on a number of the conclusions being drawn by media, but few are reporting this. As an example, Dr. White recently noted: "It might be that this is totally wrong and that tofu has zip to do with it." (Los Angeles Times, 3/23/2000)
Research on Tofu & Cognitive Function (MS-Word format) - This article was published in the April (2000) issue of Journal of the American College of Nutrition. This two page document summarizes Dr. White's findings and then provides comments noting its deficiencies.
Knowing the Benefits of Soy (MS-Word format) - This SANA document discusses the extent to which massive epidemiological evidence discounts the sweeping conclusions of Dr. Lon White at the University of Hawaii. Also discussed are the lower rates of Alzheimer's disease and cancer that consistently appear in populations with high soy product consumption.
(Note: the "Meat consumption vs. cancer incidence" chart from The Lumen Book (originally appearing in Scientific American) brings something else to mind: you can see that the countries with high animal protein consumption vs. vegetable protein (i.e. U.S., New Zealand, Canada) have high cancer rates. Conversely, those with low animal protein consumption, that is, those that rely on vegetable sources of protein, like Japan, which has one of the highest soybean intakes per capita of any countries, have low cancer rates.)
Baby Formula: Comments about the potential dangers of using soy-based baby formulas in face of scientific research to date, as well as clinical observations from sixty years of use by the public. The American Academy of Pediatrics supports the use of soy formulas when children cannot or do not want to consume breast milk or cow's milk-based formula. The Food & Drug Administration highly regulates infant formulas. USDA researchers are finding that infants consuming soy-based formula may even be protected against chronic diseases. Call the International Formula Council, 404-252-3663, for more specifics on research regarding soy-based infant formulas.
Humans Are Not Cheetahs. Those of us who have been working in the soy business for over 20 years are familiar with the now infamous condemnation of soy as a suitable food for cheetahs. As I duly noted in The Lumen Book, carnivorous animals, just as the cheetah, have an entirely different GI tract and digestive physiology than humans do. Many human foods are not suitable for animals. It is the observation of every pet owner that their dog or cat will not eat citrus fruits (a dietary fact rooted in the fact that human bodies do not product their own ascorbic acid). And yet extensive misleading extrapolations of this fact continue to proliferate.

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