Herbal Supplements
Soy Isoflavones and Lecithin Controversial Benefits

Soy plant has a long history of use: first as an industrial crop and then as food. These days it is one of the most popular commercial plants extensively grown all over the world. It had always been claimed a perfect food: health-promoting and money-saving. Starting from 1920 Soy had been extensively cultivated in the USA to be used for food, and not for the industrial reasons as before. This plant had been all this time so much valued for its positive influence on the human organism and perceived as wonderful substitute for animal proteins for vegans and vegetarians.

The recent research, however, discloses how little we still know about this ancient plant: the studies currently conducted report of the controversial results, some of which say Soy can be harmful for the human health. So is it, in the long run, good or evil?

Part 1
Isoflavones Benefits

Soy isoflavones (phytoestrogens) are listed among the most beneficial elements obtained from the plant. Here mainly belong diadzein and genistein and their related components diadzin and genistin. The research done in the 20th century concluded that these Soy ingredients are capable of binding to estrogen receptors in the human body, replenishing the decreased levels of naturally occurring estrogen. In this respect Soy was considered a valuable food supplement for those suffering from estrogen imbalances. Most often estrogen deficiency is observed during premenstrual syndrome or in menopausal and postmenopausal women.

Estrogen-like properties of Soy components were said to be a protective barrier against some hormone-related types of cancer, as breast, prostate, colon, and bladder cancers.

Moreover, it was also thought that these plant estrogens could decrease the risk of heart diseases, atherosclerosis, and osteoporosis. The studies reported that they helped move calcium from the blood to the bones. Isoflavones prevented the formation of plaques within the blood vessels, lowered bad cholesterol, triglycerides, and glucose levels in the blood. Thus Soy was supposed to be beneficial for diabetics, people suffering from hyperlipidemia, as well as for those at risk of heart attack and stroke.  

The research several decades ago also notified the positive effect of isoflavones on the brain activity, having the power to prevent the formation of amyloid plaques in the brain tissues, thus preserving good memory, learning ability, concentration, and mental alertness. That meant it could probably prevent the development of Alzheimer’s disease.

Isoflavones Dangers

The recent research, however, disagrees with the work done before: scientists note that many trials today end up showing rather risks of Soy activity than its benefits. Thus, plant’s estrogens are nowadays associated with the adverse effects on the endocrine system, causing hormonal imbalances that may result in infertility and breast cancer. One study reported about the increased endometrial hyperplasia (thickening of the uterus lining) in women treated with Soy isoflavones on a long-term basis. Other risks discovered by this time are: the impairment of the thyroid function, hyperthyroidism, danger of the thyroid cancer, and surprisingly breast cancer as well, though as it was mentioned above, older trials gave the opposite results. 

Unfermented Soy food raises most concerns as it is suggested that during fermentation many of the Soy toxins are destroyed. Lately, scientists have been worried by the fact that unfermented Soy is used in infant formulas, which as they assume, may lead to the development of cancer in babies.

Moreover, gender-related problems may take place in kids raised on Soy milk due to its ability to increase female hormone estrogen. Thus, scientists say boys may later in life suffer from testicular atrophy, infertility, and postponing of puberty. Actually, Soy is said to be feminizing. Girls, on the other hand, are in danger of speeding up their puberty and menarche or having breast cancer, enlarged uterus, and at the greater risk of infertility.  

It is these days said that such food products as miso, tempeh, natto are safe to be consumed; however, unfermented products like Soy milk and tofu pose danger to the human health. In general, all the scientists agree that negative effect is related due to the long-term use of Soy or to the consumption of Soy supplements in the pill form.


Part 2

Another element, which has always belonged to the list of Soy most promising components, is lecithin. In view of the controversial opinions on Soy these days, it is worthy to get better acquainted with this chemical as well, which is still nowadays extracted from the Soybeans to be used either as a supplement for medicinal purposes, or as a food additive, thus it can be fond in the large number of products.

Lecithin Advantages

The major lecithin component is phospholipid phosphatidylcholine (PS). Due to its presence, Soy-derived lecithin was named the building blocks for nerve chemical acetylcholine, necessary for the normal brain functioning. It was suggested to protect it against Alzheimer’s disease.

This element was also believed to be an important component of cell membranes, which was able to inhibit the harmful influence of free radicals and toxins entering the body. It was known to aid in the renovation and repairing of cell membranes. Lecithin was said to be the most beneficial for liver health, reducing the effects of alcohol and medications. It was suggested to prevent cirrhosis and fibrosis development, as well as fatty deposits accumulation.

Lecithin was discovered to be able to reduce bad cholesterol, increasing good one and aiding in the processing of fats. Consequently, this Soy component was thought to prevent atherosclerosis, in addition helping to avoid the formation of gallstones (which are usually composed of cholesterol).

Multiple sclerosis was another condition, the symptoms of which might be reduced with Soy lecithin. The latter contains phosphatydilserine – a chemical, which is believed to suppress the production of tumor necrosis factor (TNF) by the immune system. Multiple sclerosis is characterized with the lowered levels of the given element, which results in the TNF increase in count and its attacks on the nerve cells.

Lecithin Risks

The latest studies on lecithin report of its possible harmful influence on the human health. Scientists number this chemical among the Soy antinutrients, capable of reducing body’s ability to digest and absorb calcium, magnesium, iron, copper and zinc. It may also cause digestive system problems and disrupt protein digestion.

The main risk, however, concerns the fact that it is Soy lecithin which is most likely to get contaminated with toxins used in Soy cultivation.

Thus, question about Soy benefits remains open for the time being. It looks like nowadays it is best to stick to the following rules: never consume raw Soy and know when to stop!

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Bucky Ball
2012-07-15 21:37:08
Most chocolates are made with sugar, cocoa, and soy lecithin. Studies proving the healthiness of cocoa and cacao, don't prove the healthiness of chocolate. Per Epstein and Olsan, March 5, 1912, lecithin increases fermentation. Per "mnwelldir.org", cancer metabolizes through a process of fermentation; and fermentation requires sugar. Many people break out after eating chocolate because their bodies do not easily digest/assimilate soy lecithin. Also, consuming soy lecithin and sugar, combined, can accelerate cancer-tumor growth, especially if the tumor is located in an estrogen-receptive and anaerobic environment like the breast.
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More About Soy...

Soy Introduction with Some Pros and Cons

Biological Description Soy (Soybean, Soya, which botanical name is Glycine ...

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