The good, bad, and ugly truth about SOY!

November 11th, 2012 by Lee Euler

You’ll get different answers to the question of whether soy is good for you, depending on whom you ask.

Some people think it’s a healthy food, while others think that consuming soy will cause breast cancer. So what’s the truth?

Let’s start with some basic facts…

Continued below. . .

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Mixed study results keep folks guessing…

    Soybeans pack a lot of healthy nutrients into one small package. They contain all the essential amino acids humans need. But they also have compounds called isoflavones that act like a weak form of estrogen in your body.

The soy isoflavones genistein and daidzen act as powerful antioxidants that can help protect your cells from oxidative damage caused by free radicals.

But too much estrogen in your body can fuel tumor growth in hormonally sensitive tissues, such as the breasts and endometrium (lining of the uterus).

These cells contain receptors that bind with estrogen and send out signals that can stimulate abnormal cell growth.

Much of the controversy surrounding soy can be traced to animal laboratory studies. Rats injected with estrogen receptive (ER) positive tumor cells were given different doses of genistein or daidzen.

Scientists noticed that the animals with the greatest tumor growth were those who received more of the isoflavones. But these harmful effects were demonstrated in some, but not all animal studies.

For that matter, study results in humans produced different results from those conducted on lab animals. In studies of Asian women, who tend to eat more soy foods, researchers found a lower risk of breast cancer.

But even this is controversial. Opponents of soy say that Asians consume far less soy than American health food advocates claim.

Nonetheless, U.S. studies have so far failed to produce any association between a woman’s soy consumption and her risk of breast cancer.

If that finding is accurate, it could be because genistein and daidzen also have anti-estrogen properties, even though they’re natural forms of estrogen!

As strange as it sounds—these isoflavones can also prevent other natural estrogens from binding to estrogen receptors.

What’s more, the soy isoflavones encourage production of a protein that binds estrogen in the blood. This makes it less able to link to the cell receptor where it can send signals leading to tumor growth.

But aside from the role of soy isoflavones in increasing or decreasing initial cancer risk, you might be wondering …

Continued below. . .

 

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Should breast cancer survivors
steer clear of soy products?

    Some women might refrain from using soy products, fearful of the possibility that they may cause a recurrence of tumor growth. But from what Cancer Defeated has been able to learn, there are no studies to confirm this.

Three recent studies of eating habits and other lifestyle factors of breast cancer survivors focused on soy consumption of more than 9,000 women.

Investigators found that women in two U.S. studies and one Chinese study who consumed 10 mg or more of soy each day actually had a 25% lower risk of breast cancer recurrence!

The 2012 American Cancer Society Guidelines on Nutrition and Physical Activity for Cancer Survivors determined that current research simply does not suggest that there are harmful effects to breast cancer survivors from eating soy. I’m no fan of the ACS, but we can’t lightly throw out peer-reviewed studies without knowing more.

The ACS’s guidelines recommend against taking soy supplements because they contain higher isoflavone concentrations than you would ingest from soy foods. In other words, the natural food is better for you than the supplement. No surprise there.

By now you may be thoroughly confused. Here’s my take: We don’t know enough. Soy is still too controversial. I’m wary of the risk of eating large amounts of a food that mimics the activity of estrogen in the human body.

This is a disagreement I have with my own doctor, a very knowledgeable guy who encourages me to eat more soy. I tell him what I just told you: I don’t want to eat a form of estrogen.

By the way, these comments don’t apply to fermented soy, like that found in soy sauce and miso soup. Fermented soy is a VERY healthy food. Check out our Issue #88 for more about this.

Soy used to be cattle feed

    Whether Asians really eat much soy is a controversial matter, as I said earlier. But in the U.S. we know that up till the 1980’s soy products were used primarily to feed livestock.

Then nutritionists decided that maybe bulls and cows weren’t the only ones who could benefit from soy-based foods.

Soy products are often a popular choice to meet the protein needs of people following a vegetarian diet. And these foods are not hard to find, considering you’ll find soy in all these grocery store and restaurant items:

  • Edamame (green soy beans)
  • Meatless foods (e.g. burger crumbles, bacon-like strips)
  • Miso paste and soup (fermented soy, not the same as tofu)
  • Soy milk
  • Soy sauce (fermented)
  • Tofu

Studies show soy helps lower cholesterol… control blood pressure… and may help moderate symptoms of menopause and osteoporosis. For what it’s worth, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) even slapped its seal of approval on 25 grams of daily soy protein.

Animal tests conducted by researchers at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles seem to show that a soy compound called genistein can stop your cells from making the stress proteins that cancer cells produce.

These proteins protect cancer cells from being destroyed by your immune system and anti-cancer therapies. When their protective shield is stripped away—your body can identify and destroy them far more easily.

Genistein is widely regarded as a good cancer remedy, but it’s still nagged by the same doubts about the overall safety of soy.

Hopefully all the issues will get sorted out and we’ll finally know the truth about soy. Till then, be cautious. There are plenty of good cancer remedies that aren’t plagued by doubts.

We wrote about one of these exciting remedies in our last issue. If you missed the article, just scroll down and read it below.


Shocking News! Some Antioxidants
Cause Cell Damage –But Don’t Worry,
in This Case It’s a Good Thing!

    An herb that has centuries of use in Chinese medicine has finally caught the eye of modern Western medical practitioners.

Now, even American scientists believe that plant pigments known as flavonoids—including one called baicalein found in the Chinese herb— may play an important role in delivering a death blow to cancer cells.

But the way baicalein fights cancer is a shocking surprise: Even though it’s an antioxidant, it damages DNA. Keep reading and I’ll fill you in. . .

Continued below. . .

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Chinese culture has a long history with the plant known as Chinese skullcap (Sculletaria baicalensis), including its use for:

  • Killing bacterial infections…
  • Reducing inflammation…
  • Serving as a diuretic…
  • Shrinking tumors…
  • Treating hepatitis…
  • And much more!

Now recent clinical studies indicate this herb from the mint family may deserve top honors as a cancer killer. But it kills cancer cells in a way scientists didn’t expect.

According to findings published March 19, 2012 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, National Institutes of Health (NIH) researchers were surprised to find that some plant antioxidants actually damage cell DNA rather than protect it.

One of the antioxidants that has this weird and surprising effect is baicalein from Chinese skullcap. Resveratrol, the “red wine antioxidant,” was another.

Damaging DNA is the opposite of how scientists think antioxidants generally work. It’s a shocker — but don’t toss your antioxidants yet.

It is this ability that may make baicalein a natural treatment for cancer. Meanwhile, another research group already has the jump on the NIH when it comes to proving baicalein is a cancer killer.

In 2011, a group of researchers at the City of Hope cancer research center in California stumbled on baicalein as a possible cancer killer. Here’s what happened…

A happy accident!

    A City of Hope research team was screening several natural extracts in search of those that might work well with the protein called interferon regulatory factor-1 (IRF-1).

This protein is known to play a role in boosting your immune response… regulating cell apoptosis (natural cell death)… and suppressing tumor growth. The scientists wanted to enhance IRF-1’s natural ability to treat cancer cells and possibly even prevent the disease altogether.

According to findings published August 4 online in the journal Molecular Cancer Therapeutic, the researchers found that of all the natural compounds they tested— baicalein came out head and shoulders above the other extracts when it came to boosting IRF-1 activity.

They used the plant extract to perform lab tests on stomach cancer and breast cancer cells and found that baicalein stopped cancer cell growth dead in its tracks! They also found that it suppressed breast tumors in mice, with no toxic side effects.

According to a City of Hope statement, many other researchers have reported baicalein’s positive effects on pancreatic, colon and lung cancer cells. And that’s just in the past year!

With that background, let’s take a closer look at the NIH study that showed baicalein wrecks DNA!

Hold on… I thought antioxidants were harmless!

    Don’t swear off your fruits and vegetables just yet! Antioxidants ARE good for you. As their name suggests, these nutrients can prevent or slow the rate of oxidative damage to your body.

When your cells use oxygen, one byproduct they generate is free radicals. These unstable oxygen molecules scavenge the body and steal parts from other cells to become more stable.

Cells with stolen parts become unstable free radicals that set off a chain reaction.

Free radical cell damage is believed to be a main cause of many common illnesses associated with aging, including diabetes… heart disease…. arthritis. . .and cancer…

But antioxidants like vitamins C and E, selenium, and CoQ10 help fight free radicals—and slow down cell destruction—by donating oxygen to stabilize free radicals.

They may also boost your immune system and lower your risk of experiencing infections and abnormal cell growth.

So the finding that baicalein and other antioxidants cause DNA cell damage may seem contradictory at first glance. But not when you probe further…

Mixed study results may be a boon for
natural cancer treatment!

    Kyungjae Myung, Ph.D., a senior investigator in the Genetics and Molecular Biology Branch of the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI), was a lead study author for this investigation. Myung’s lab studies how enzymes repair cell DNA.

Scientists know that when DNA repair systems malfunction, various diseases result, including cancer. Dr. Myung’s research team had two principal goals for this study, namely:

  1. To identify chemicals that damage DNA, and
  2. To use the chemicals to study cell repair mechanisms.

The NHGRI team used lab cells grown from human kidneys to develop a test to demonstrate when a chemical causes DNA damage. The test would show fairly quickly which chemicals damage cell DNA.

To determine which chemicals to study, a multi-agency initiative called Tox21 amassed a collection of about 2,000 compounds to test.

The researchers were surprised to find that 22 antioxidants caused DNA damage!

What’s more, three of the antioxidants they identified—baicalein, genistein and reseveratrol—are in use right now or are being studied for their anti-aging and disease fighting attributes!

But the researchers were more encouraged by the fact that these compounds did not cause gene mutations—unlike standard chemotherapy drugs.

In a statement from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, Dr. Myung explained that “standard chemotherapy mutates the tumor’s DNA… sometimes allowing it to escape the toxic treatment intended to kill it. This leads to multidrug resistance in some cancer patients’ disease.”

Because the antioxidants don’t cause these gene mutations, doctors think they may be useful in treating such multi-drug resistant cancers.

The investigators are cautious about the study results. They emphasized that the findings occurred only in lab-grown cells and they don’t yet know the impact on humans.

But the study from City of Hope cancer center suggests there IS strong evidence that baicalein/Chinese skullcap may be ready for primetime.

Baicalein shows much promise as part of Mother Nature’s ‘chemotherapy.’ But it isn’t the only plant compound that’s emerging as a kick-butt cancer killer. We’ll talk about some others in the next issue!


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Kindest regards,

Lee Euler, Publisher


Resources from 1st article:Arabina, D., Naren L. and Swapan K. (2009). “Flavonoids Activated Caspases for Apoptosis in Human Glioblastoma T98G and U87MG Cells But Not in Human Normal Astrocytes”. Cancer 116 (1): 164-76. doi:10.1002/cncr.24699. PMC 3159962. PMID 19894226. Available at
www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3159962/De Assis, S. and Hilakivi-Clarke, L. (November 2006). “Timing of dietary estrogenic exposures and breast cancer risk”. Ann. N. Y. Acad. Sci. 1089: 14-35. doi:10.1196/annals.1386.039. PMID 17261753. “The viability was decreased by co-treatment with genistein and irradiation compared with irradiation treatment alone.”

De Lemos, M.L. (2001). “Effects of soy phytoestrogens genistein and daidzein on breast cancer growth”. Ann Pharmacother 35 (9): 1118-21. doi:10.1345/aph.10257. PMID 11573864.

Hwang YW, Kim SY, Jee SH, Kim YN, Nam CM (2009). “Soy food consumption and risk of prostate cancer: a meta-analysis of observational studies”. Nutr Cancer 61 (5): 598-606. doi:10.1080/01635580902825639. PMID 19838933.

Keiko, M., et al. (April 2001). “Interaction of Phytoestrogens with Estrogen Receptors a and b”. Biol. Pharm. Bull. 24(4) 351-356.
http://www.jstage.jst.go.jp/article/bpb/24/4/351/_pdf.

Kim SH et al. Kim (2009). “Genistein inhibits cell growth by modulating various mitogen-activated protein kinases and AKT in cervical cancer cells”. Ann N Y Acad Sci. 1171: 495-500. doi:10.1111/j.1749-6632.2009.04899.x. PMID 19723095.

Sakamoto T. et al. (2009). “Effects of diverse dietary phytoestrogens on cell growth, cell cycle and apoptosis in estrogen-receptor-positive breast cancer cells”. J Nutr Biochem 21 (9): 856-64. doi:10.1016/j.jnutbio.2009.06.010. PMID 19800779.

Zhou, Y. and Lee, A. Mechanism for the suppression of the mammalian stress response by genistein, an anti-cancer phytoestrogen from soy. Journal of the National Cancer Institute 1998; 90: 381-388

Resources from 2nd article:

Di Rado, A. 2011, September11. Team gets at root of herb’s cancer-fighting potential. Hope News. Retrieved online at
http://www.cityofhope.org/about/publications/hope-news/2011-vol-06-num-27-september-12/
Pages/team-gets-at-root-of-herbs-cancer-fighting-potential.aspx

Fox, J. et al. 2012, March 19. High-throughput genotoxicity assay identifies antioxidants as inducers of DNA damage response and cell death. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. Published online before print and retrieved from
http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2012/03/12/1114278109.full.pdf+html

Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. 2012. Sculletaria baicalensis webpage. Retrieved from
http://www.mskcc.org/cancer-care/herb/scutellaria-baicalensis

Thompson, L. 2012, April. High-throughput screening finds surprising properties for antioxidants. Environmental Factor. Retrieved online at
http://www.niehs.nih.gov/news/newsletter/2012/4/science-highthroughput/index.htm

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