The Soy Myth? (from a breast cancer survivor) has a new article published this morning about “Get smart about soy.” The highlights are how soy is a good substitute for meat, supposed to help fight cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, breast cancer, and is cholesterol free. I don’t agree with the article 100% and don’t eat a lot of soy, but was surprised at the nasty comments…the article was propaganda for the food industry, avoid soy at any cost, etc.

By the way, before you react and comment in a negative way, my advice is to take 5 minutes and think about it first. What are you trying to accomplish? Being right? Being an ass anonymously?

So I took 5 minutes to think about it. And then decided to blog about it. There is some confusion out there as to the benefit of eating soy products, especially if you have breast cancer or had breast cancer…it can possibly stimulate estrogen levels due to phytoestrogen compounds. Part of the conflicting data is that the Asian diet is heavy with soy products and they have low rates of breast cancer. I had breast cancer (and part Asian) so of course I am interested in this.

In a normal diet there are a number of naturally occurring plant-derived compounds called phytoestrogens. Green beans, peanuts and dates have some phytoestrogen content; but flaxseed, soy and soy byproducts are especially high in phytoestrogens. These compounds are also referred to as flavonoids, isoflavones, coumestans or lignans. Each plant varies in the amount of phytoestrogen it carries.

For the person who is at average risk of breast cancer, dose is the key issue. There is a difference between high levels of phytoestrogens in the diet and the very high doses in dietary supplements. It is okay for a person at average risk of breast cancer to eat a moderate amount of soy products, such as tofu, etc., as part of an overall well-rounded healthy diet. Beware of the supplements extremely high in phytoestrogens (like flaxseed based lignans) that are promoted as “natural” treatments for hot flashes and other menopausal symptoms. Some clinical trials show these supplements are no more effective than placebo (sugar pills) at relieving these symptoms. There is also good science to suggest these high dose supplements may have negative health effects.

As part of my breast cancer treatment six years ago, my estrogen levels were tested and it was positive for high-estrogen receptors. I opted not to take the drug Tamoxifen to counter act this (surgery and radiation was enough). So it’s not a good idea for me to eat a lot food with high phytoestrogens. Everyone is unique and needs a different plan based on their situation.

I did learn this morning that flaxseed has about FOUR times more phytoestrogens than soy. Discovering that was worth my 5 minutes of chilling.


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