I had an interesting chat with a friend's mom today. My friend had breast cancer in her early 30s and now one of her friends has a whole host of cancer running amuck in her body, in her mid-30s. Apparently a few weeks ago while my friend was visiting her other pal in the hospital, the oncologist came in to have a little discussion about their diets. Both women started being vegetarians in their teens and consume a great deal of soy products such as soy milk, soy 'cheese', tofu, etc. He talked to them about soy being high in estrogen (or, to be more precise, the plant's version of soy) and apparently over the years he has been seeing more and more young women being diagnosed with estrogen-based-cancers who are also living a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle. He is taking a closer look at this, I think on a personal level for now rather than a full scale medical study. But this is an oncologist and he is starting to wonder what's going on.
I don't really like soy products. I've tried to be on the bandwagon a few times since it's been so heavily advertised as being healthier for the body, so I've bought soy milk, ate tofu, 'garden burgers', etc... but I never like it that much so I gave up eventually. Because of that, I've never really looked into it either. But to be honest, it would not surprise me in the least if something happened eventually to show that 'whoops, too much soy can cause problems'.
Another interesting story came from yet another friend. Her husband became lactose intolerant suddenly about 18 months ago so he immediately changed to soy products. About 6 months later, his wife noticed that he had little boobies. She didn't say anything at first, just thought that he was perhaps showing his age and less active due to his job (long hours driving).... But then the little boobies were sticking out (and hanging!) enough that he started to get embarrassed and would wear two shirts - a tighter tshirt or sleeveless shirt - under whatever else he was wearing because he didn't want anyone to see his new rack. They were just little, floppy things, but finally his wife went up to them and flicked them around and said 'what the hell are these things???'. Something weird seemed to be going on. He was not gaining weight and is actually very thin and tall... but here were these boobies and he was only 35 years old..... active when he wasn't at work (baseball, soccer, hockey, etc).... She started looking online for hormone problems and stumbled across an article about soy and estrogen. Upon further checking, she found that there doesnt seem to be any real consensus on the subject but decided to err on the side of caution and threw out everything soy in their home. She switched to buying Lactaid for his intolerance and other products for that affliction that do NOT include soy..... and within 6 weeks, his boobies were completely gone and have not returned in the past almost-year.
Could it be a coincidence? Maybe. But it sure seems a bit odd. I did a little looking around online tonight and found the same thing - some sites cautioning about injesting too much soy, and others saying that there is no proof. What seemed to be a common 'reason' for soy being safe was it's widespread use in Asian countries. Well hey, they don't seem to be having an issue, so it can't be true, right? Those naysayers must just be cattle owners in disguise, trying to sell their beef by scaring people about soy, right?
Well I found a link that seems to be very fair and interesting and also covers that common 'reason'. Soy:Friend or Foe? at Earthsave Canada. In there, it discusses that overseas, many people (or most?) use soy products as a side-dish, a condiment, an extra part of their main meal. Not THE main meal like so many over here seem to be doing. I had dinner at my friend's house (the breast cancer survivor) one night and she made spaghetti with tofu chunks instead of meat. Then we had soy milk and a small soy shake, the 'cheese' sprinkled on the meal was grated soy cheese something-or-other, and we had soy based 'ice cream' for dessert. She eats like that all the time. Every single day. For the past almost 20 years. I always thought she was the healthiest person in the bunch until I read some things online. If this Friend Or Foe article is correct, she could be injesting entirely too much soy as well as causing possible blockage of certain nutrients if she is not watching the products she buys. I *think* she buys all organic but I don't stick my head in her fridge and cupboards and read all the labels, so who knows. But it's just something interesting.
I am a meat eater. I eat some sort of meat every single day. So do my kids. We eat beef and pork on a weekly basis, and throw in chicken at least 2-3 times a month (used to be more but it's dang expensive these days). Sometimes I think 'my god, am I doing this right??' because I hear so much anti-meat and especially anti-red-meat media out there... but then I look back. My oldest is almost 14 years old and has literally not been to the doctor in 7 years. My doc saw him in 2004 for a checkup and bloodwork but that was the last time. Oh tell a lie, he went to the walkin clinic twice for an ear infection that same year, but that was the last incident of that. He has only missed 3 days of school in the past 7 years due to illness as well (the flu kicked his butt once). He is 5'10 and weighs 172lbs and is a size 11 shoe. He eats as much as a full grown man easily (and more).
My daughter is almost 9 and has missed 2 days of school in 4 years due to illness. She has never even met our family doctor because I've only had to take her to the walkin clinic once in the past 6 years. In 2004 she had a nasty bout of bladder infections but she was still in diapers at the time and that can happen. She has only had one prescription medication in 6 years, and that was last month for an infected baby tooth socket. That's it.
My youngest is 3 and has had a couple ear infections and used to be on inhalers for his lungs, but he was born 7 weeks premature and that's not uncommon. He has never met our family doc and has not seen his pediatrition in 1.5 years. I missed one day of work in the past 2 years for him being sick (the flu) and that's it. He gets colds but nothing like when he was a baby and his bronchial airways were underformed. Now everything has been great (knock on wood).
So when I look at all that, I think that perhaps I am not doing anything wrong at all. The media and pressure to give up meat and 'eat healthy' is not going to sway me. I am not saying that eating tofu is bad but I think that some more research needs to be done. People worry about growth hormones in milk but what about estrogen levels in soy? There is a saying - 'too much of a good thing' that comes to mind here. It reminds me of the days when butter was on the chopping block - blamed for being too high in fat and blah blah blah so then came the big birth of Margarine. What happened decades later? Oh gee - margarine too high in transfats and being blamed for heart attacks and strokes and high cholesterol... Maybe we should have stuck with butter. Just in moderation.
Will it be the same for soy? Is eating it for breakfast lunch and supper every day a good thing? Or could it be posing a problem for people?