To Fu or Not To Fu? Soy's the Question
©2001 Melissa Kaplan, The Carousel Network, VII(1):11-12
effect of soy - specifically, its isoflavones - on lowering "bad" cholesterol
(LDL - low density lipoproteins) has been documented well enough by researchers
that the FDA lets soy product manufacturers put health claims on their products,
so long as the product contains at least 6.25 grams of soy protein.
The only problem with this is that the research recently reported by the American Heart Association indicates one has to ingest at least 25-50 grams of soy protein. That's about the equivalent of 4+ 8-ounce glasses of soy milk per day, less if you eat other forms of soy protein during the day. The soy milk products I currently have on hand show the following protein and serving information:
Soy = 6g per 8.024 oz
Each of the nutrition data panels on these products listed a serving as being "1 cup" but each had different ml specified. To run your own calculations: 8 oz = 236.6 ml; ml x 0.034 = US ounces.]
Consuming this amount of soy protein every day can lower your cholesterol level by 5-7%. Cool. Easy. No sweat. Just replace a couple of the 8 oz glasses of water or herb tea you drink every day with 1-2 servings of soy milk, and use the rest in your soups, protein shakes, cereal, pudding, etc.
Just in case you got to thinking that that was too easy, here's a little wrinkle the panel of nutrition experts found as they reviewed 10 years worth of research data on soy and cholesterol: you need to ingest at least 40-50 milligrams of isoflavones per serving. What's the catch? The isoflavone quantity may not be listed on the carton:
= 33 mg/serving
Okay, so soy milk has gotten a lot tastier than the brands available 10 years ago, so drinking more of it every day isn't a problem. You've discovered the fun of munching on steamed soybeans. You now throw textured vegetable (soy) protein chunks in your homemade chili instead of some or all of the meat protein you used to use. You make it a point to (try to) eat lots of veggies and fruits instead of things loaded with animal protein and fats. You've even cut out foods that can also raise or keep elevated your LDL, such as corn, potatoes and other root vegetable. And of course you make sure to exercise several times a week (which increases your HDL level, your "good" cholesterol).
Oh. Wait. That's right. It's just about impossible for those of us with CFS/FM/Lyme to exercise enough to have any impact on our cholesterol levels.
There's also the fact that hypercholesterolemia (high serum cholesterol) is for some reason commonly found in PWCs, even if they have been maintaining a mostly or completely vegetarian diet. Since at least some of the elevated cholesterol levels have to do with something beyond our control, and our inability to exercise adequately, how much impact dietary changes will actually have is unknown...though it is better to be safe than sorry.
Estrogens: A Thorny Dilemma
Other researchers are becoming increasingly aware that estrogen and the other "sex" hormones play a much wider role in our bodies, including brain function and nerve health. That's why some are looking at the effect of "natural" estrogen, such as some of the isoflavones found in soy, on brain and body.
But, at a meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research, researchers at the University of Illinois in Chicago reported that soy protein may be less effective in reducing breast cancer risk than previously thought. Researchers did find that women who regularly eat soy protein appear less vulnerable to breast cancer, and linked that protection to one particular isoflavone, genistein.
The Illinois researcher who led this latest work says tests in rodents fed soy protein stripped of isoflavones showed significantly more tumor protection than soy protein with the compounds and, further, that genistein was much less effective at blocking tumor growth than its relatively ignored sibling molecule, daidzein.
Lon White, chief author of the Hawaii study, says that the bottom line is that isoflavones act like drugs. As consumers, we need to remember that about soy - and other herbs and medicinals we take. Keep track of your soy intake, monitor your thyroid and cholesterol, and watch your calcium intake.
Goldstein, Jay. 1992. The Diagnosis of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome As A Limbic Encephalopathy. From, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: The Limbic Hypothesis.
Gordon, Eric. 2000. Personal communication.
Marcus, Adam. 2000. Soy Under Fire: Two studies question its health benefits. HealthSCOUT.com
White, LR, et al. 2000. Brain Aging and Midlife Tofu Consumption. JACN April 2000, Vol 19 No 2
Copyright 2001 Melissa Kaplan. Permission to reprint in support group newsletters granted. Any other use requires permission of author. Please visit my CND site for more information on chronic neuroimmune diseases such as chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, multiple chemical sensitivity, and more.
Aging and Midlife Tofu Consumption.
OBJECTIVE: To examine associations of midlife tofu consumption with brain function and structural changes in late life.
METHODS: The design utilized surviving participants of a longitudinal study established in 1965 for research on heart disease, stroke, and cancer. Information on consumption of selected foods was available from standardized interviews conducted 1965-1967 and 1971-1974. A 4-level composite intake index defined "low-low" consumption as fewer than two servings of tofu per week in 1965 and no tofu in the prior week in 1971. Men who reported two or more servings per week at both interviews were defined as "high-high" consumers. Intermediate or less consistent "low" and "high" consumption levels were also defined. Cognitive functioning was tested at the 1991-1993 examination, when participants were aged 71 to 93 years (n = 3734). Brain atrophy was assessed using neuroimage (n = 574) and autopsy (n = 290) information. Cognitive function data were also analyzed for wives of a sample of study participants (n = 502) who had been living with the participants at the time of their dietary interviews.
RESULTS: Poor cognitive test performance, enlargement of ventricles and low brain weight were each significantly and independently associated with higher midlife tofu consumption. A similar association of midlife tofu intake with poor late life cognitive test scores was also observed among wives of cohort members, using the husband's answers to food frequency questions as proxy for the wife's consumption. Statistically significant associations were consistently demonstrated in linear and logistic multivariate regression models. Odds ratios comparing endpoints among "high-high" with "low-low" consumers were mostly in the range of 1.6 to 2.0.
CONCLUSIONS: In this population, higher midlife tofu consumption was independently associated with indicators of cognitive impairment and brain atrophy in late life.
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