There's good news and bad news when it comes to soy beans. Yes, they can be nutritious, but studies show that there are also several health risks associated with soy. Unfermented soy products present the biggest risk and include:
- Raw soy beans
- Some nuts
- Soy milk
Fermented soy products, such as the types used in many Asian countries, can actually have health benefits, so it's important to check the soy products you are using to ensure they are fermented.
Some of the biggest concerns of unfermented soy are:
- It may affect a woman's fertility. Soy contains isoflavones, which are plant compounds that mimic estrogen. Animal studies show that eating too much of it may trigger premature puberty and possibly disrupt development in fetuses and children. For the most part, these studies focused on genistein, a prominent isoflavone.
- It's damaging to babies and infants. An infant that is fed a soy formula may have up to 20,000 times more estrogen circulating through her body than a baby fed a non-soy formula. Most doctors advise that you should never give your infant a soy-based formula.
- It may stimulate tumor growth. People who have hormone sensitive cancers, including breast, ovarian or uterine cancers, should avoid soy because of its estrogen mimicry, which may stimulate tumor growth.
- It can contribute to vitamin deficiency. Soy foods actually increase your need for vitamin D, needed for healthy bones. That's why some companies add vitamin D2 to soy milk. Soy also contains a compound that resembles vitamin B12, but the human body can't process it. It's widely acknowledged that soy foods actually contribute to B12 deficiency.
- It can damage your thyroid. Soy beans are goitrogenic, which means they can slow thyroid activity (hypothyroidism) and promote thyroid disease. An underactive thyroid can produce fatigue, low blood pressure, weight gain and depression. Hypothyroidism can be treated with a synthetic thyroid hormone, and there is some concern that soy interferes with your body's ability to absorb it.
Soy can be a wonderful addition to your diet, but do your research and proceed with caution. Your local Atlantaphysiciancan give you more information about the benefit and dangers of soy products.