In just this week alone, I received several concerned friends' query on whether its safe to feed young boys soy. This does not come as a surprise to me, as there are many misconceptions about Soy in the world today. I will take this opportunity to answer some of them specifically with regards to children taking soy.
Most of the time, the articles surrounding the fear of feeding children soy highlights the presence of phytoestrogens. They claim that phytoestrogen works similar to estrogen and can cause hormonal related imbalances in children, affecting their development.
In the same note, there are also other articles highlighting that estrogen is a leading cause of breast cancer, concluding that phytoestrogen too should be avoided. Let's look at some of these in detail and understand it better.
Phytoestrogens are a type of phytochemical, which aid in the growth process of soy plants. They are not manufactured in our human endocrine system, and comes only from our food.
They bring about benefits such as cardiovascular health, lower risk of breast cancer and improved health during menopause. This we will cover in another article about the benefits of Soy.
Phytoestrogens are from plants, while estrogens are found in animals. Phytoestrogens are a very much weaker form of estrogen.
Most articles that highlight the risk in this area discourages people from feeding their children soy formula milk. I'm no fan of soy formula milk either. Nevertheless, it is not because of the soy content in there.
Let's look at the ingredient label on a soy formula milk. The top 5-6 ingredients, which usually form the major components, are vegetable oils, sugar. That's not what I want to be feeding my boy as a staple. You can find my sharing here.
Let us now consider the difference between phytoestrogen and estrogen. In order for phytoestrogen to bring about any significant impact in the hormone imbalances, it needs to be taken in significant quantities (almost impossible from taking wholesome soy) compared to estrogen.
Today, can we safely say that our children are not consuming estrogens at all in their diets? Estrogen is found in animals' milk (cow, goat), chicken meat, beef..etc. These amounts of animal estrogen they are consuming in their every day diets, will be contributing to more hormone imbalance than from the weaker phytoestrogens in soy.
As a result, parents that do not want to feed their child soy because of phytoestrogen, should not even be allowing their child any animal milk or meat as the effects on hormonal imbalance is much higher.
In fact, there have been studies which show that consuming soy helps in reducing breast cancer risk. One of them was done by the National University of Singapore, the University of Southern California, and the University of Minnesota. It tracked 35,000 chinese women over a ten-year period. This study was published in the British Journal of Cancer in 2008 and found that consuming soy products helped to reduce risk of breast cancer by 18%.
How does it happen? In each cell, there is an estrogen receptor which receives the estrogen and turn into a cancerous cell. It is like a lock and key concept. The receptor is the lock, while estrogen is the key that activates it. When phytoestrogen comes along, it is too received by the same estrogen receptor. However, the cell does not turn cancerous as phytoestrogen is too weak to activate it. As such, the phytoestrogen remains in the receptor and prevents other cancer causing estrogen from being received.
With this understanding, I am not fearful to give my boy a soy based milk as his daily staple instead of the commercial formula milk. This is a much safer option compared to cow's or goat's milk which contains estrogen in them. On the other hand, it is made of wholesome plant foods, sparing his liver the load of the numerous chemicals in formula milk. Also, the soy used here is tested to be GMO free among 2000 other laboratory safety tests. You can read more about the safety testing here.
Hope that you have understood soy a little better through this post. I will still be writing to cover other soy myths such as related to gout and other conditions in the future too. Stay tuned!
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