Facts that vegetarians (and the rest of us) should be aware of:
Soybeans are seed type legumes of the genus Glycine. All soybeans naturally contain phytoestrogens
in the form known as isoflavones, which have been proven to be potent endocrine disrupters and have thyroid suppressing effects when ingested in quantity.
Soybeans also naturally contain anti-nutritional factors
, including protease inhibitors (which inhibit the digestion of protein), phytates (which inhibit the absorption of needed minerals such as calcium and zinc), oxalates (which have been linked to digestive distress as well as kidney stones) and oligosaccharides (which cause flatulence).
In November 1999, the FDA approved a health claim that a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol that includes no more than 25 grams of soy protein a day may reduce the risk of heart disease. However, given findings by Israel, France and Germany as described below, FDA is contemplating removing its approval
of this health claim.
In 2005, the Israeli Health Ministry
warned its citizens that babies should not receive soy formula; that children to age 18 should not eat soy foods or drink soy milk more than once per week; and that adults should exercise caution because of adverse effects on fertility and increased breast cancer risk.
In 2006, the French Food Agency announced that it would soon require labels on soy foods, warning against their use by children under age 3;
those with thyroid problems; and women with a diagnosis of or family history of breast cancer.
In 2007, the German Institute of Risk Assessment warned against the dangers of the estrogenic isoflavones that are contained in soy protein.
Persons who consume more than 25 grams per day of soy protein are
at risk for suffering some or all of the following health effects:
a. Thyroid disorders, most often manifesting as hypothyroidism or the autoimmune thyroid disease Hashimoto's thyroiditis. Symptoms can include fatigue, lethargy and depression.
b. Digestive distress, including pancreatitis and gastrointestinal disorders such as irritable bowel syndrome (“IBS”) or colitis. Acute and chronic symptoms would include painful cramping, ongoing or intermittent diarrhea, alternating constipation and diarrhea, flatulence and other symptoms.
c. Immune system breakdown
, leading to frequent colds and flu as well as increased risk for autoimmune disorders, cancers
and other chronic conditions.
d. Soy allergies of either the immediate hypersensitivity or delayed reaction type. Immediate hypersensitivity reactions are acute allergic reactions, including coughing, sneezing, runny nose, hives, diarrhea, facial swelling, shortness of breath, swollen tongue, difficulty swallowing, lowered blood pressure, excessive perspiration, fainting and anaphylactic shock. The more common but less dramatic delayed reactions include sleep disturbances, chronic rashes and other skin problems, sinus and ear infections, anxiety, irritability, joint pain, chronic fatigue, and other symptoms.