How Much Is Too Much?

Clinical nutritionist Kaayla Daniel on the Dos and Don'ts of soy consumption

| Utne Reader July / August 2007

Editor's Note: Kaayla Daniel is a certified clinical nutritionist with a Ph.D. in nutritional sciences and anti-aging therapies from the Union Institute and University of Cincinnati, Ohio. She is the author of The Whole Soy Story: The Dark Side of America's Favorite Health Food (New Trends, 2005).

What health problems do you see in your practice that can be traced back to overconsumption of soy?
I work mostly with midlife women, and they're likely to eat a lot of soy and drink a lot of soy milk. They're taking soy isoflavone supplements because they've heard that it's going to help them through menopause. A lot of these women are very intelligent and educated, and, unfortunately, they get this idea that if a little of something might be good, then they should do a lot of it. They start gaining weight, feeling fatigued; they get lethargic and depressed, and when they go to a regular doctor, they're told 'Well, what do you expect, you're getting old,' and that this is typical of menopause. In fact, the symptoms are almost entirely coming from that change in their diet, which had to do with soy.

How much soy does the average person consume in a day?
Someone on a junk-food diet is getting soy flour in the fast-food hamburger bun, soy protein in the burger itself, and soy oil in the fries; soy is in every one of these products because it's cheap and abundant. You'll find soy hidden in so many foods, and small quantities add up.

People often start by drinking a lot of soy milk. If they are taking supplements, they can be getting really high doses. Even scientists working for the soy industry will say they support soy food but do not support use of soy supplements. It is so dangerous at such a high level, and it's harming many people.

How does marketing affect soy consumption?
It's very much about marketing. If we look back, the soybean was used in this country for soy oil. They take apart the bean and take out the oil and turn it into margarines and shortenings and all those liquid vegetable oils. Once the oil is out, what they had left over was a whole lot of protein.

What's happened is that some of the things they tried to get rid of they're now marketing as things that can prevent cancer or prevent problems. They take something that's bad and turn it into something that's good. Every time they remove a component of soy, they have another thing they can sell.

David Lovering
8/17/2011 2:05:18 PM

Some years ago I read in an agricultural journal that pigs (who are greatly similar to humans in terms of enzymatic processes, dietary preferences, etc.) will generally not eat soy beans unless they are driven to it by extremes of starvation. This is admittedly somewhat anecdotal since the original source is now long-past recall. While soy has been a component of human diet for something over 5,000 years, I understand that its principle value was believed to be its ability to put nitrogen back into the soil - just as peanuts do today. [Actually, it is the symbiotic bacteria in the root systems that do the real work, but who's counting]. At no time would the ancients have consumed soy products in the massive volumes we do today. They knew better.

12/9/2008 10:07:25 PM

I like how the question ("How much is too much") was never actually answered. "Be careful" is not an answer.

4/22/2008 12:00:00 AM

Thanks for the article. I have been doing a lot of internet research on Soy, after my own downgrade in health. While I still do not know exactly what is causing my insides to cramp after everything I eat, I have noticed that anything with soy in it (like everything right?!) causes the cramping to worsen. I noticed this right when I finally after 5 years went off the birth control shot (depo) and finally was convinced to drink more soy milk to supposedly increase calcium. Within a month of being off the shot I noticed I was very sensitive hormonally, emotionally and physically as if I was going through menstruation almost constantly. I stopped drinking soy milk for SOME reason, and noticed I felt better within a couple days. The cramping is still there, and for 9 months now I have been going to doctors in a small town and nobody can tell me what is wrong, even after blood tests, ultra sound, hida-scan. I am looking for a specialist who is interested in helping me find out the problem and hopefully educating people to prevent this from happening elsewhere. I am lactose intolerant as well, off the chart actually, but with the proper amount of enzyme I have no problems with real dairy products. I am looking at all labels and finding some success in getting better tasting, favourite foods without soy in them (hopefully). I can usually tell within about 10 minutes of eating anything through internal cramping if there is soy, and look for the label to confirm. I appreciate you information! Sharley Goulais, Kelowna, BC

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