Our family drinks a lot of soy milk. Perhaps too much.
We even briefly used soy milk to wean our one year old off of the breast, which caused our pediatrician to scold us for choosing soy over formula. We didn’t feel we deserved the reprimand because we were also supplemeting her diet with full fat yogurt and meat baby foods for protein and fat.
Just to be safe and balanced, we’ve since included whole dairy milk into the routine and eased off of the soy.
I recently read about a vegan couple who were wreckless with their baby’s diet. They fed their infant nothing but apple juice and soy milk, which ultimately lead to her death. Vegans!!! They were sentenced to life in prison for the stupidity. It was this trial, and some previous knowledge about soy’s link to estrogen, that made me want to examine the beverage further.
Based on my research so far, I can safely say that soy is an imperfect health food. Vegans and health alternative parents, including myself, should limit or eliminate their daily use of soy milk.
I’ve found so many contradictions in the scientific literature about soy milk: it gives you cancer, it prevents cancer, it makes you smarter, it gives you dementia. Since researching the topic, I’ve decided that soy milk is both good for you and bad for you, depending on your specualtive perspective, but the science on both sides of the debate is being manipulated to serve those informed speculations. The truth lies somewhere inbetween, and as always, that makes me lean to the side of caution, since it’s unfair to my kids to gamble their health for the sake of neutral critical inquiry.
The contradictions of soy milk begin with it’s high amount of heart-healthy isoflavone phytochemicals that mimic estrogen and potentially disturb the body’s reproductive hormones (the one’s that are already being disturbed by bisphenol-a and triclosan). Lab rat studies show that soy increases reproduction problems with puberty (and all that) and induces thyroid disease. Its been said that feeding a child soy formula is the equivalent of giving them four or five birth control pills. Needless to say, I’m skeptical of that claim.
It’s been shown that the phytochemicals in soy can be effective and beneficial for women during menopause. Two glasses of soy milk a day is even enough estrogen to throw off a woman’s cycle. That’s a crapload of estrogen, and to think that most baby’s are getting all that in BPA plastic bottles cleaned out with triclosan antibacterial soap. Who knows what kind of reproductive problems we’ll see down the road.
Soy should be a good protein alternative for children who are (mis)diagnosed as lactose intolerant. Soy milk and other soy products contain a processed ingredient called Soy Protein Isolate (SPI). But looking at SPI further reveals some unsettling facts. SPI is a soy waste product that is recycled back into the product, after being processed in vats of aluminum. Of course, the aluminum contaminates the soy milk (about a 100 times more than cow formula). The processing also creates nitrites, a carcinogen found in deli meats that slightly scare me, and lysinoalanine, a pseudo-toxin that doesn’t really scare me yet. The FDA has yet to deem SPI safe for consumption, even though some vegans are eating it nearly every day.
Soy is popular in the diet of Japanese, who have low rates of heart disease and cancer, but they generally consume unprocessed fermented soy and a lot less of it. The fermentation of tofu eliminates many of the aformentioned toxins that pose a health threat to soy milk drinkers, including phytic acid, a toxin that inhibits vitamin absorption.
The list of negative soy studies is long and complicated. I’m extremely disappointed that soy milk hasn’t stood up to scientific scrutiny. It seems so healthy, but any critical thinker would be quick to put me in my place on that simplification. As with any product I serve up to my children, I must choose safety over comfort, health over principle, and science over hype. I guess the cow industry just received a permanent convert. Yay!
As with all controversial topics, I welcome and encourage topical comments and thoughts from relevant experts and random visitors. Thanks for the feedback!
*UPDATE 7/23/08* Soy milk may lower a man’s sperm count!