Posted by Linda Bonvie
December 18, 2014
Here at Food Identity Theft, we’ve dedicated a lot of time and effort to making our readers aware of the health risks caused by a number of common food additives, almost all of which are considered to be “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS) by the Food and Drug Administration (with the exception of brominated vegetable oil). These include synthetic sweeteners like high fructose corn syrup and aspartame, neurotoxic flavor enhancers such as monosodium glutamate and related forms of free glutamic acid, and deadly trans fats that are said to be responsible for an estimated 7,000 annual heart disease fatalities.
Today, however, we’d like to discuss the problems associated with a supposedly “healthy” food ingredient that’s an actual food source, rather than just an additive –and that is arousing increasing concern because of the large number of processed products of which it’s an integral part.
We’re referring to soy.
Like corn, soy seems to be everywhere in our food supply. And a lot of consumers may still be under the impression that it’s a heart-healthy plant protein (remember the “tofu turkey”?), based on an FDA assessment to that effect made 15 years ago — a “final rule” that allowed foods containing soy protein to make advertising and labeling claims that 25 grams of soy protein a day, as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol, may reduce the risk of heart disease.
In the years since, an increasing number of experts have challenged that conventional wisdom about the alleged health benefits of soy. But one group, the Weston A. Price Foundation, whose self-described mission involves disseminating accurate, science-based information on diet and health, has taken such concerns a couple steps further.
First, back in August 2008, the group filed a citizen petition “based on the large body of scientific evidence that fails to support the soy protein health claim permitted by the FDA’s Final Rule,” and that raised “scientific evidence showing that soy protein consumption may have adverse health consequences, due to the presence of antinutrients, including protease inhibitors, phytates, lectins, saponins and oxalates, as well as phytoestrogens, in soy protein.
“To prevent consumers from continuing to be misled about the connection between soy protein and heart health,” that petition requested revocation of the FDA’s Final Rule, according to a news release issued by the Foundation. But the FDA failed to answer that petition and has continued to ignore it, despite a rule that within 180 days the agency must either approve or deny the petition, or provide a tentative response indicating why it has been unable to reach a decision.
Finally, this week, the Foundation ran out of patience, and filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia that seeks to compel the FDA to provide a substantive response to the Citizen Petition that has remained in limbo for the past six years.
Prisoners sue over soy
But there’s a bit more to the story than that. For in the interim, the Foundation has seen for to sponsor another lawsuit has been instituted over soy used in food – this one filed by prisoners in Illinois who are claiming that the large amount of soy in their diet constitutes “cruel and unusual punishment” in violation of the eighth amendment, as well as a denial of their fourteenth amendment rights to due process.
Consuming excessive amounts of soy (which the plaintiffs claims was used to save money) are alleged to have resulted in a variety of ailments that included chronic gastrointestinal problems and pain, vomiting after eating, passing out, heart palpitations, rashes, acne, insomnia, panic attacks, depression and symptoms of hypothyroidism, such as low body temperature (feeling cold all the time), brain fog, fatigue, weight gain, frequent infections and thyroid disease.
Now, should you think such claims were being invented by convicts with too much time on their hands, they’ve been supported by several prominent experts, including Dr.David Brownstein, a physician, who maintained that the amount of soy fed to the plaintiffs was responsible for causing their health problems, including gastrointestinal distress and bowel dysfunction, vitamin deficiencies and thyroid disorders, and toxicologist Mike Fitzpatrick, PhD, who pointed out that the phytoestrogens in soy depress thyroid function and cause endocrine disruption, and that a mere 50 grams of soy can cause thyroid problems, including thyroid cancer.
Another expert witness, laboratory analysis expert William Shaw, noted that soy protein has the highest oxalate level of any known food and that the prisoners were receiving hundreds of milligrams of oxalates per day. “According to Shaw, virtually all of the plaintiffs’ health problems can be explained by their high-oxalate diet. The toxicity of oxalates is well established; oxalates can deposit sharp crystals not only in the kidneys, but in virtually every tissue and organ of the body, including joints, heart, blood vessels, teeth, gums, eyes, skin, brain, nerves, thyroid and thymus glands. Oxalates also block the absorption of many essential minerals, leading to malnutrition.”
Now, admittedly this can be a controversial topic. But regarding soy, the best advice we would offer our readers is that fermented soy products, such as tempeh, are probably a lot healthier than others – and that organic products containing soy ingredients are far preferable to conventional ones.
But even at best, soy is something that should certainly be consumed in “moderation.” Otherwise, you could conceivably find yourself eating a self-imposed diet similar to that of the Illinois prisoners who claim they have been subject to “cruel and unusual punishment.” And perhaps suffering many of the same reactions – although you may not be aware of the reasons why.