Soy myths have been circulating for a long time. Perhaps you’ve heard that soy can:
- Feminize men
- Increase breast cancer risk in women
- Disrupt thyroid activity
- Cause Alzheimer’s disease
- Block the absorption of important nutrients
Soybean production is massive in the United States, yet consumption rates remain relatively low compared to other parts of the world. Particularly in Asian cultures, soy is consumed abundantly, which contributes to low cancer rates. Unfortunately, many poorly designed studies promote the uncertainty surrounding soy. Leaving many confused about whether or not soy is healthy.
I’ve been a proponent of soy for years because it contains isoflavones, which are phytoestrogens (plant estrogens) that prevent and treat several medical conditions. Soy isoflavones prevents osteoporosis, improves postmenopausal symptoms in women, lowers cholesterol, and prevents cancer. Soy has amazing cancer-blocking capabilities, all of which target the ways in which cancer cells grow and proliferate in the body.
Soy Deprives Cancer Cells: one of the ways in which cancer cells thrive in the body is through angiogenesis. Angiogenesis is a process in which new blood vessels are developed. In the beginning, cancer cell growth is limited, which makes the cells susceptible to cancer treatments. However, over time, cancer cells can develop tricks that allow them to grow and even spread (metastasis) to other tissues in the body. Metastasis and angiogenesis promotes malignancy. Soy-rich diets have been shown to block the growth of new blood vessels in cancer.
Soy Disarms Cancer Cells: cancer cells avoid the body’s immune response by producing special molecules known as heat shock proteins (HSPs) and glucose-related proteins (GRPs). These molecules protect cancer cells from an immune attack. Soy blocks these cancer-protecting proteins.
Soy Suppresses Cancer Cell Growth: in the body, there are proteins that promote or suppress tumor activity. Tyrosine kinase, an immortality protein, inhibits apoptosis (cell death). Normal cells are programmed to die if the cell mutates or becomes old, but cancer cells simply continue to grow and proliferate. Without apoptosis, cancer cells grow into a tumor mass with the help of tyrosine kinase. Fortunately, studies show that isoflavones in soy inhibit the activation of tyrosine kinase.
Isoflavones—A Closer Look
Isoflavones include genistein, daidzein, and glycitein. And soy isoflavones have been effective in the prevention of breast cancer. The isoflavones (plant estrogens) are structurally similar to estrogen. Based on what we know, estrogen is a very strong hormone that has been attributed to breast cancer in women (because men possess a small amount of estrogen, prostate cancer risk has also been linked in studies to estrogen). Soy contains weaker estrogens, so incorporating soy in the diet will increase the circulating amount of phytoestrogens. A high amount of plant estrogens circulating in the body means that they can compete for estrogen receptor sites, which helps to lower the lifetime exposure to estrogen and reduce the risk of breast cancer too.
There are many soy products you can try such as miso soup, edamame, and tempeh. Substitute your dairy products by consuming soy yogurt and milk.