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Is Soy Making You Less Manly?

Posted June 10, 2009 5:00 AM by Sharkles

When I was an undergraduate in college, it seemed that the natural food phenomenon was beginning to take over the campus – largely in the form of soy. Soy cereals, soy milk, soy burgers, etc., are now found in many places and are considered to be very healthful.

While it's good that people are embracing healthy alternatives as part of their normal diets, there may be a dark side to soy that is of particular importance to men.

There are Some Health Benefits, But…

In 1999, the United States Federal Drug Administration (FDA) deemed that diets should include 25 grams (about a pound) of tofu a day to reduce the risk of heart disease, and aid in extending lifespan. Additional research also suggested that soy proteins protect against prostate cancer.

Like most other medicines or remedies, soy protein also comes with side effects. Consuming soy proteins means allowing two natural drugs, genistein and daidzein, into the body. These substances behave similarly to estrogen, the main sex hormone in women.

Genisten and daidzein are said to have evolved to act as chemical defenses against fungi and grazing animals – not to deal with the complexities of human sex characteristics. But when humans (especially men) consume large amounts of soy proteins, they may experience "gender-bending" side-effects like enlarged, painful or swollen breasts; loss of body hair; decreased interest in sex; weight gain; change in voice; mood swings; etc.

Effects in Each Stage of Life

Recently, Men's Health published an article on the subject, explaining how excessive soy intake may affect men throughout their lives. Considering how popular soy has become, the article also questions what it means for all babies growing up in the soy generation.

  • Babies raised on soy: The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that babies who cannot be breastfed be given cows-milk formula as the preferred alternative. Healthy infants should only been given soy formulas when medically necessary, states the AAP's 2008 report.

    Paul Cooke, Ph.D., reproductive biologist at the University of Illinois, has found that soy formulas can lead to a significant decrease of the thymus gland, a key part of the immune system.Additionally, the American Medical Association (AMA) surveyed over 800 adults who were fed soy formulas as infants, and found an increased occurrence of asthma and allergies.

  • Teens to 20s: For teens trying to build muscle mass, most know that protein is essential for muscle building and repair. Since eating enough protein before or immediately after a workout can be challenging, protein supplements allow athletes to just add a scoop to a drink. The problem is that the main ingredients in protein supplements are soy, whey, and casein. Soy is the cheapest of the three ingredients, but its affordable price may actually cost muscle gain.

    In 2005, the Journal of Nutrition published an article which stated that "the biological value of soy protein must be considered inferior to that of casein protein in humans." Researchers also found that the large portion of soy in supplements is degraded to urea and contributes very little to the body. Concerns about decreased testosterone products and estrogen-effects also emerged from this study.

  • 20s to 40s: Last year, a Harvard study found a strong association between men's intake of soy foods and decreased sperm counts. Ninety-nine men reported their soy intake and then underwent semen analysis. The results showed that men in the highest category of soy intake averaged 32% fewer sperm per milliliter than those who refrained from soy.

    Additional research done on male rats suggests that moderate doses of soy throughout a man's life can affect quality of erections as well; the mice showed decreased testosterone production, and had softer erections or none at all.

  • 50s and Beyond: Last summer, Eef Hogervorst, Ph.D., of Loughborough University in England, found that survey participants over the age of 68 who consumed the most tofu had double the risk of dementia and memory impairment when compared to those consuming a moderate amount of soy.

Since soy is a staple of the larger natural foods movement, it's unlikely to be going anywhere soon – especially since there are some health benefits. It's not that eating soy is going to immediately cause drastic changes. Like many things, moderation is the key.

What do you think?

Resources:

http://www.ehow.com/about_4680878_side-effects-men-taking-estrogen.html

http://www.menshealth.com/bestfoods/food_features/Is_This_the_Most_Dangerous_Food_for_Men.php

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#1

Re: Is Soy Making You Less Manly?

06/10/2009 9:12 AM

Food for thought, Sharkles. :) Following your premise, Michael Feldman, host of NPR's Whad'ya Know radio program, would be the ring leader in an NPR conspiracy to make us all a bit less "manly", if you use Charlie Sheen's Two and a Half Men character as your gold standard. Michael regularly pitches BOCA burgers. Late Austrian rock singer Falco's "Macho, Macho" song from the 80's comes to mind, with your blog title. Yes, I will admit unashamedly, I was proudly one of Falco's U.S. fans back then.

However, as I've shared with other engineers, my biggest food fear, dating back to 1986, has been with U.S. milk consumption, and too much ingested testosterone, which could lead to cancer. Some Finnish friends warned me way back then to avoid hormone-laden milk, common in the U.S. at the time. A primer on "Suomi" milk: http://www.foodfromfinland.com/index.phtml?s=82 . - Larry

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#2

Re: Is Soy Making You Less Manly?

06/10/2009 11:58 AM

While I'm glad you came to a measured conclusion that moderation is key, there are several problems with both your blog post and especially the Men's Health article you used as a source.

First, concerning Genistein and Daidzein (known as isoflavones, which act as phytoestrogens). While soy does have larger phytoestrogen content than many other foods except flax seed and other oilseeds, many common foods contain not insignificant amounts and multi grain bread actually has more than soy milk[1][2].

Second, phytoestrogens only become a problem in males when consumed in large quantities (which you mentioned, but the side effects were mentioned much more prominently), for example if you had soy as the main part of every meal. The Men's Health article starts out with a shocking story of a man who has been 'feminized' by the harmful effects of soy, with the implication that this is something that could happen to you. However, this study[3] demonstrates "significant effects of [Soy Protein Isolates] on serum reproductive hormones, regardless of high or low isoflavone content". So although soy does have an effect on hormones, it is not due to phytoestrogen, and it is only something to worry about for a small group of people. In addition "[t]hese results may indicate soy protein's potential to contribute toward prostate cancer prevention", although the article demonstrated reservation to come to that conclusion without more study.

In terms of the various stages of life, the studies Men's Health chose either do not support the conclusions they drew, do not have nearly the impact that is implied, or only apply for overindulgence in soy. For babies, the article says to watch out because there was an increased occurrence of asthma and allergies. However, when looking at the study[4] the authors clearly did not think this was an issue "Exposure to soy formula does not appear to lead to different general health or reproductive outcomes than exposure to cow milk formula. Although the few positive findings should be explored in future studies, our findings are reassuring about the safety of infant soy formula." So even though there was an increased occurrence of those things, the authors err on the side of it being not related to soy, but further study is needed. Also, several other studies support the conclusion that soy milk is no more dangerous than cow milk[5][6]. "It has a long history of safe use and is a high-quality, plant-based protein alternative for infant formula." In addition, looking at the AAP recommendation[7], it states that although they prefer cow milk, "isolated soy protein-based formulas are safe and effective alternatives to provide appropriate nutrition for normal growth and development." Their preference for cow milk is only due to a desire to reduce any unknown risks, as more studies are needed to firmly establish the health impacts of soy.

For the teen to 20 portion of the Men's Health article, the study[8] that they talk about is specifically referring to comparing soy protein to casein protein in terms of how efficient they are at being absorbed. And while casein is more effectively absorbed by the body, this is a non-issue for everyone who is not seriously lifting weights, and if you are lifting weights you are taking protein supplements anyway. Also, there is some information that suggests soy might be a good bodybuilding supplement[9]. So again, unless soy is your only source of protein, which is almost impossible, you do not have anything to worry about.

For the 20-40 age range, the study[10] Men's Health talks about did come to the conclusion that more soy products meant lower sperm count. However, it also states that "[s]oy food and soy isoflavone intake were unrelated to sperm motility, sperm morphology or ejaculate volume." This study[11] shows that "[t]here was no change in oestradiol, testosterone, FSH or LH concentrations throughout the study. Similarly, the supplement had no significant effect on ejaculate volume, sperm concentration, count or motility." So even if the first study is correct and the second is not, the only effect it had was lowering sperm count, which again could easily be avoided by not overindulging. In terms of the second part about the mice, from the article itself from the author of the study: "We are now recommending that soy be avoided by patients with erectile dysfunction" and "he also suggests that men ages 40 and above limit their soy intake". So even the author of the study says that it is only a problem if you consume too much soy or if you already have problems in that area.

In terms of the 50+ age range, even going by what it says in the article, it is only a problem if you eat too much soy.

The long-term effects of soy on health, especially men's sexual health is still not clear. However, far from what the Men's Health article would have you believe, it is not "the most dangerous food for men". In fact, like all foods when eaten in moderation it has many health benefits. And eating too much soy shouldn't be a problem for anyone except those few who are hypersensitive to the effects of soy. Even a vegetarian or vegan can and should get their protein from many other sources than just soy, such as pulses and grains.

Sources:
[1] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16898863
[2] http://www.dietaryfiberfood.com/phytoestrogen.php
[3] http://jn.nutrition.org/cgi/content/full/135/3/584
[4] http://jama.ama-assn.org/cgi/content/full/286/7/807
[5] http://jn.nutrition.org/cgi/content/full/134/5/1220S
[6] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15055353
[7] http://aappolicy.aappublications.org/cgi/content/full/pediatrics%3B101/1/148
[8] http://jn.nutrition.org/cgi/content/full/135/5/1080
[9] http://www.elitefitness.com/reports/free/supplements.html
[10] http://humrep.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/full/23/11/2584
[11] http://www.clinsci.org/cs/100/0613/cs1000613.htm

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#4
In reply to #2

Re: Is Soy Making You Less Manly?

06/10/2009 7:20 PM

DEAR SIR INEED GOOD ANSWERS IT SOUND AS IF YOU USE MUCH SOY IN YOUR DIET. MUCH REGARDS, SANDY V.

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Re: Is Soy Making You Less Manly?

06/11/2009 12:03 AM

You are sincere, you are studious, you are not mischievous and one who hides behind the name "GUEST"

Why don't you join CR4 as member with name. I welcome you in anticipation.

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#3

Re: Is Soy Making You Less Manly?

06/10/2009 7:13 PM

I don't know about less Manly but it certainly makes me less Healthy, for you see like many I am allergic to soy.

Still plenty of things still DON'T have soy in them.

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#5

Re: Is Soy Making You Less Manly?

06/10/2009 10:59 PM

Uhm, Japan and (Asians for that matter) use a lot of soy bean products.

they seem okay

Soy products
The humble soybean (daizu) is used to make a wide variety of foods and flavourings. Soybeans and rice are used to make miso, a paste used for flavouring soup and marinating fish. Together with soy sauce (shoyu), miso is a foundation of Japanese cuisine. Tofu is soybean curd and a popular source of protein, especially for vegetarians. These days, even tofu donuts and tofu icecream are available. Natto, fermented soybeans, is one of the healthiest but also the most notorious item on the menu. With a pungent smell and sticky, stringy texture, natto is easy to hate straight away. Japanese people themselves tend to either love it or hate it. It is usually served with chopped onions and a raw egg and mixed into a bowl of rice.

taken from here

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Re: Is Soy Making You Less Manly?

06/11/2009 7:55 AM

I also pondered this at first read.

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#7

Re: Is Soy Making You Less Manly?

06/11/2009 5:29 AM

...and there was me thinking it was anno domini.
Del(or maybe the fact that I'm wearing MrsCat's underwear)

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Re: Is Soy Making You Less Manly?

06/11/2009 5:41 AM

Cats need not worry. Reports only says about manlyness, not catlyness.

(From when cats started using underwear)

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#10

Re: Is Soy Making You Less Manly?

06/11/2009 9:16 AM

As a general rule, the main ingredient to my meals usually had parents at some point so I'm not too worried about the malicious bean curd. If I had some of those problems listed in my 20s to 40s then I would probably be crazy in my 50s and beyond and trying to forget about it too!

Have you heard about that terrible H2O molecule? In large doses it can be fatal and cause increased need to urinate.

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Re: Is Soy Making You Less Manly?

06/12/2009 1:22 PM

Don't concern yourself with the H2O molecule. There is a far greater threat to both mankind and the environment - Dihydrogen Monoxide (DHMO):

http://www.dhmo.org/facts.html

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Re: Is Soy Making You Less Manly?

07/31/2009 10:40 AM

Don't concern yourself with the H2O molecule. There is a far greater threat to both mankind and the environment - Dihydrogen Monoxide (DHMO):

Global worming, too!

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Re: Is Soy Making You Less Manly?

07/08/2009 9:50 AM

So drinking beer and eating steak will make/and keep you a man...

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Re: Is Soy Making You Less Manly?

07/09/2009 9:54 PM

What about the soybean oil (and/or cottonseed oil. but thats another story) that is found in virtually everything, and occasionally 'hydrolized soy protien' additives? Are they vehicles or concentrators of the suspect drugs? Soy sauce, oyster sauce, teriaki, etc.?

I used to eat an occasional soy burger, and liked tofu stir-fry (with snow peas, yum) but in the last 20 years or so I have developed a gastrointestinal intolerance for soy products. Maybe that's a good thing now that I'm over 60 and thinking of testosterone therepy.

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Re: Is Soy Making You Less Manly?

05/17/2019 7:00 AM

Spam: This post was deleted because it contained advertising outside the Commercial Space forum. Please review Section 14 of the Site FAQ about advertising. etc.

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