Soya products, are rich sources of isoflavones. The isoflavones found in soy products are called “phytoestrogens” because their chemical structure looks similar to oestrogen. But these isoflavones can act differently in your body i.e. they are not exactly the same thing as the oestrogen hormone.
Some of the suggested benefits of eating soya include:
- Lowering total, LDL (”bad”)cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
- Asian populations are known to have a lower incidence of breast, prostate and other cancers – it has been suggested that this is due to their average daily intake of one serving soy.
- Easing menopause symptoms.
Opposing this, internet articles have suggested that soya intake raises cancer risk, causes nutrient deficiencies, osteoporosis, thyroid problems, reproductive difficulties and Alzheimer’s Disease. I am also often asked about the effect of soya on testosterone levels in boys and men.
The best way to try decipher truth from the hype is to consider the source of the information. Information should be evidence based. In the case of the negative effects of soya – it appears that these articles are not based on broad base of evidence – authors have picked and chosen single studies; or are based on animal studies – not necessarily applicable to humans.
From what I have read, it appears to be perfectly safe for nearly all healthy individuals (men and women) to include soya products daily in reasonable amounts (up to 2 – 3 servings a day). Women who have had oestrogen-positive breast cancer may want to be somewhat more restrictive in their intake, but there is no evidence to suggest that they need to avoid all soya products.
Take home message:
Soya products are safe to consume in moderation as part of a healthy balanced diet.