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Soy Phytoestrogens and the Art of Propaganda

In this newsletter we will discuss the current controversy about soy phytoestrogens. The established literature to date is replete with studies that find soy phytoestrogens beneficial to disease prevention including prevention of breast cancer. There is, however, some current literature coming from a publication know as Nexus Magazine which, for the most part, parrots the "literature" from the Weston A. Price Foundation. I have attempted to present this literature as I have found it.

A brief look at Weston and the Foundation ...

The Weston A Price Foundation today is composed mostly of farmers and denies any relationship with any of the current beef and dairy lobbies or corporations.

Dr. Price was a dentist who died in 1948. He traveled the world studying the teeth of tribes far removed from civilization and made some correct observations about dental cavities and western eating habits. He extrapolated them to aging in general and, to some degree, he was correct. I totally agree that western eating habits cause premature aging and are responsible for most, if not all, of the epidemic of lifestyle disease we see today. When he died in 1948 the country was then just being taken over by the beef and dairy lobbies and a lot of important research regarding the dangers of meat and dairy had not been done. However, now some fifty six or so years later, we have a "foundation" that advocates meat and dairy even though Weston himself did not advocate dairy. I quote from one of the sites about him:

"These primitives with their fine bodies, homogeneous reproduction, emotional stability and freedom from degenerative ills stand forth in sharp contrast to those subsisting on the impoverished foods of civilization--sugar, white flour, Pasteurized milk and convenience foods filled with extenders and additives."

However, in addition to the Foundation's promotion of the ingestion of meat, there is even a movement from the "Foundation" that is suggesting that we drink whole unprocessed milk. Unpasteurized milk caused a lot of bovine type tuberculosis at one point, not to mention the risk today of transmitting Mad Cow Disease. This is the reason that milk was then, as it is today, Pasteurized. I think that movie has already been played once. Reminds me of being in Brown County, Indiana with my father who was a physician. His friend, Jim Huntsman, wanted to give me some unpasteurized milk and my father said no, politely ... but no. No discussion of milk is complete without mentioning the late Dr. John Oski, head of the Department of Pediatrics of Johns Hopkins when he wrote, "Don't Drink Your Milk." Another book on milk by Jane Heimlich "Milk, the Deadly Poison" is another good read.

Perhaps one of the remote tribes that I don't think Weston had the occasion to meet are the Bantu of Africa.

"The African Bantu woman provides an excellent example of good health. Her diet is free of milk and still provides 250 to 400 mg of calcium from plant sources, which is half the amount consumed by Western women. Bantu women commonly have 10 babies during their life and breast feed each of them for about ten months. But even with this huge calcium drain and relatively low calcium intake, osteoporosis is relatively unknown among these women."

John McDougall, M.D.

This quote from Suzanne Havala, R.D.

"There is no human requirement for milk from a cow." Suzanne Havala, R.D. author of the American Dietetic Association's Position Paper on Vegetarian Diets

We would all like to think that Weston, if he was alive today and was as smart as they say he was, would look at the China study and the rest of the current information available today and realize that animal protein in any amount, from any source, is detrimental to one's health.

Now, for some of the "studies" that form the basis for the "soy alert."

We picked some of these studies at random from all the studies listed that "support" the soy alert from Nexus Magazine and The Weston A Price Foundation. We could have gone on literally for many days, if not months.

2002 Lephard ED and others. Neurobehavioral effects of dietary soy phytoestrogens.

Neurotoxicol Teratol 2002 Jan-Feb;24(1):5-16. Male mice fed diets rich in phytoestrogens had lower levels of maze performance than male mice fed diets free of phytoestrogens. (Opposite results were observed in female mice.) The results indicate that consumption of dietary phytoestrogens resulting in very high plasma isoflavone levels (in many cases over a relatively short interval of consumption in adulthood) can significantly alter sexually dimorphic brain regions, anxiety, learning and memory.

This one is really exemplary of the typical academic study that has been tailored to fit the "researchers" desired outcome. First, we are using extracted phytoestrogens. Before this study can even be discussed we need to know how the phytoestrogens were extracted and what "chemicals" were used to do so. Many laboratory extraction processes involve the use of very carcinogenic organic solvents. Second, the study was done in rats with an isolated isoflavone (phytoestrogen). Third, the researchers found by their own admission that the exact opposite effects happened in female rats, as opposed to the male rats. This data was conveniently ignored since it did not fit what the "researcher" had designed the study for. As is well known in Medicine and Research -any study can be tailored to have any outcome.

2003 Gardner-Thorpe D and others. Dietary supplements of soya flour lower serum testosterone concentrations and improve markers of oxidative stess in men. Eur J Clin Nutr 2003 Jan;57(1):100-6.

In a study carried out at University Hospital of Wales, male volunteers ate three scones per day in addition to their normal diet for a period of six weeks. The scones were made either with wheat flour or soy flour providing 120 mg per day of isoflavones (about the amount contained in 3 cups of soy milk). Researchers noted "significant improvements in two of the three markers of oxidative stress" and concluded that "these findings provide a putative mechanism by which soya supplements could protect against prostatic disease and atherosclerosis. However, testosterone levels fell in the volunteers eating the soy but researchers did not stress this alarming finding in their conclusion.

This study shows that actually soya flour, as they call it, did provide some protection against prostatic disease and atherosclerosis. Again, listen to the commentary, the researchers did not stress the lowering of the testosterone levels. A polite Duh ... Why would they? The mechanism for the improved health in the volunteers is most likely the lowering of testosterone, much the same as breast cancer rates go down with decreasing estrogen levels in the female. Not to mention that Nexus advocates eating heavily estrogen laden beef in place of whole organic soy products. What sense does this make to you? Apply the rule of common sense here ... if the results don't make sense to the authors they simply twist it around and try to "buffalo" the reader into a "false" conclusion.

2003 Hartley DC and others. The soya isoflavone content of rat diet can increase anxiety and stress hormone release in the male rat. Psychopharmacology (Berl) 2003 Apr ;167(1) :46-53.

This report begins with the following statement: "Isoflavones form one of the main classes of phytoestrogens and have been found to exert both oestrogenic and anti-oestrogenic effects on the central nervous system. The effects have not been limited to reproductive behaviour, but include effects on learning and anxiety and actions on the hypothalamo-pituitary axis." Noting that most rat chow contains soy, investigators compared the behavior of rats given isoflavones in their diets with those on an isoflavone-free diet. Rats fed isoflavones spent significantly less time in active social interaction and had significantly elevated stress-induced corticosterone concentrations. The conclusion: "Major changes in behavioural measures of anxiety and in stress hormones can result from the soya isoflavone content of rat diet. These changes are as striking as those seen following drug administration and could form an important source of variation between laboratories."

This study really doesn't prove anything. We have no idea how much isolated isoflavones were used and what relevance this study may have to whole organic soy products and human beings is not clear.

Another "scientific" relevation from the Foundation on cholesterol.

"Read Dr. Ravnskov?s thought-provoking paper -High cholesterol may protect against infections and atherosclerosis, recently published in the prestigious Quarterly Journal of Medicine. "

I especially like this one from the Nexus site. Dr. Ravnskov's thought provoking paper is really thought provoking -is the good doctor brain dead? I'm sorry but here I have an ally in conventional medicine -The American College of Cardiology. I have been in medicine since 1965 having graduated from Indiana Medical School in 1969. I have never occasioned the prestigious Quarterly Journal of Medicine, although I frequently saw the New England Journal, Internal Medicine and the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

The position of the American College of Cardiology, as long as I have been around to be aware of it, has been that high cholesterol is not good. I'm sorry here folks -but I'll go with the ACC.

The Art of Propaganda!

The next three paragraphs are from "Soy and the Brain" from the Weston A PriceFoundation.

"Soybeans grown in the United States contain residues of the pesticide dieldrin, an organochlorine similar to DDT. Although both chemicals were banned in the 1970s, dieldrin still persists in soils and is absorbed through the roots. Today it is the most toxic residue found on domestic soybeans.22 In Silent Spring, Rachel Carson warned that dieldrin is nearly 50 times as poisonous as DDT. In addition to disrupting hormones, it can have long delayed neurological effects, ranging from loss of memory to mania.23 Chinese aphids were recently discovered in fields scattered across Wisconsin, so increased pesticide applications are likely.

Combinations of insecticides, weed killers, and artificial fertilizers-even at low levels-have measurable detrimental effects on thyroid and other hormones as well as on the brain.24 EPA scientists now want to upgrade the commonly used herbicide, atrazine, to a "likely carcinogen." In animal tests, atrazine attaches to sites on the hypothalamus, a crucial brain region involved with regulating levels of stress and sex hormones.25

Individuals newly diagnosed with Parkinson's disease were more than twice as likely to have been exposed to insecticides in their home, compared to those without the disease.26 In September 2000, The Lancet reported that farmers and gardeners regularly exposed to pesticides may have more than five times the risk of developing mild cognitive dysfunction."

Read these carefully as they are good examples of the art of propaganda. Includea litte truth to disarm the reader in the midst of your propaganda. No one will dispute that soybeans grown in America are "loaded" with pesticides. The implication is that the non-organically grown soybean and the rest of soy products such as tofu, tempeh and infant fomula, have higher concentrations of these pesticides than meat, or even more unbelievable, that meat raised in America doesn't have any of these pesticide residues. Stop and ask yourself "Where do these heavily pesticided soybeans go?" At least 80-90% of all the commercially grown soybeans are -fed to cattle(we could feed the world population if we didn't feed all of our farm production to animals so that we can eat them). Stop again and ask yourself "how much fat does your average soybean have as compared to your average cow, free range or otherwise? Your average soybean is 10% or less fat while the leanest "cut" of meat is at least 40% fat. The cow wins by a landslide. Now for a little biochemistry -toxic pesticides are organic compounds that "bioconcentrate" in fat, animal fat, your fat or any fat -period. See Louis Regenstein "How to Survive in America the Poisoned."

This is pure propaganda from the Weston A. Price Foundation. They start out with a "nugget" of truth and follow it with a sea of propaganda. Yes, Weston did make some real observations regarding cavities and western eating habits. He even, to some degree, extended these to aging in general. Once again as we learn from the study of propaganda -all propaganda must have a kernel of truth somewhere. However, think for a minute -how much pesticide residue will you get from the soybean itself as compared to the amount in even a small portion of animal fat that has bioconcentrated all the pesticides it was fed during its whole life into its fat? Compare either of these to what you will get from eating whole organic tofu. That is a no brainer. The MericleDiet and DrMericle.com has at its very initial premise that all food eaten, especially here in America, needs to be organic. The second premise is that at least one meal a day must be from only whole foods, preferably vegan and sugar free.

To visit the MericleDiet:


To visit DrMericle.com:


The Hawaii aging study was flawed because a significant number of the participants who were lost to follow up were included in the final results. This was from the Hawaii Cancer Research Center.

Most of the studies that overpopulate the WWW today incriminating soy as being like diethylstilbesterol were done with commercially grown soybeans and their extracts. DES was banned quite a while ago but the black market for DES in commercial livestock operations -is alive and well. Nothing fattens a poor tortured animal like DES. Once again, time for a brain check -phytoestrogens have been shown to be beneficial to the human in many studies. DES never has. The amount of DES in organic tofu is zero. Are we are to believe that heavily pesticided meat is a better choice than soy products ...based on these "studies?" I am amazed that anyone who is intellectually honest can recommend heavily pesticided meat as being better than organic soy products under any circumstance. "How you got to teach a course in anything is simply amazing." Marshall McLuan in Woody Allen's Annie Hall.

On a more personal basis.

I mention this (not to brag) but in reference to this statement made once again on the Weston A. Price Foundation site that soy products can: "have adverse effects on the brain during development and throughout life."

My ex-wife and I raised five mostly vegan children. The youngest doesn't even remember ever drinking milk. Between these five children are eleven degrees, five at the B.A. levels and six Masters. The four girls were home schooled. The older two started the University of Arizona at 15 and 16 years old. The 15 year old graduated Magna Cum Laude (one of her Masters is from Oxford) and the 16 year old Cum Laude (she just got her Masters in History from the University of Arizona). Of the two younger girls one has her Masters in Photography and the other should complete hers this June. Our son has a degree in Classical Guitar, did Pike's Peak Ascent when he was ten years old and still has the second fastest age ten time in all of Arizona for the ten kilometer distance. These children were all raised vegan in a house with running parents and NO television.

My ex-wife is now ten years post discovery of a hypoechoic irregular mass in her left breast that had psammomatous-like calcifications. Unfortunately, she continued to eat dairy longer than anyone else (much like a famous rock star's wife who was vegetarian but continued to eat cheese). For the past ten years she has eaten completely organic, vegan and sugar free and continues to eat organic tofu and tempeh regularly. She still has her left breast and the lesion has decreased to about one-half its original size but the skin retraction is still there. Basically the lesion is stable. This "ancedotal" series of one is, however, still a series of one. When and if there is some valid research that incriminates whole organic soy, we will consider stopping it.

Common Sense Conclusions:

No valid research has been done regarding the ingestion of whole organic soy food products. Until there is some -I will go with what solid, well conducted studies we already have.

T. Colin Campbell's thirty-five plus year old China Study is the only significant study done to date that adequately examines the relationship between diet and human health.

This quote from Dr. Campbell ...

"In the next 10 to 15 years, one of the things you're bound to hear is that animal protein ... is one of the most toxicnutrients of all that can be considered . Risk for disease goes up dramatically when even a little animal protein is added to the diet." T. Colin Campbell Ph.D. (Author of The China Study).

To visit the Bookstore at DrMericle.com where you can view Dr. Campbell's book and other books mentioned in this article:


The Chinese have been eating tofu and tempeh for a lot longer than we have been eating meat. Their incidence of cancer and vascular (heart and stroke) disease doesn't go up until they start to eat beef and dairy.

What to do from here.

If you are concerned in the least about whole organic soy products then don't eat them. It's that simple.

Don't utilize extracted soy products. We don't know if it is the extraction process or the isolates themselves that could cause a problem. Common sense dictates eat your food as Mother Nature intends -whole.

As the MericleDiet has always advocated -always eat organic and whole.

I will continue to eat organic tofu and tempeh as I have for over some 27 years.

One last study on the plus side of soy just so you can see the difference.

A randomized trial to prevent hormonal patterns at high risk for breast cancer: the DIANA (Diet and Androgens) project.Berrino F., Secreto G., Camerini E., Bellati C., Maffei F., Pala V., Allegro G., Venturelli E., Cavalleri A., Rinaldi S., Oldani S., Fissi R., Campa T., Magni A., Kaaks R.*, Catania S.**, Gastaldi S.*** , Ricciuti A.*** and Burrone A.*** Istituto Nazionale Tumori, Via Venezian 1, Milan, Italy; *International Agency for Research on Cancer,150 Cours A. Thomas Lyon, France; **Ospedale San Donato Milanese, Milan, Italy; ***Association "Attivecomeprima", Via Livigno 3, Milan, Italy;

Recent prospective studies with biological banking have proven beyond reasonable doubt that post-menopausal breast cancer is preceded by high serum levels of sex steroid hormones, both androgens and estrogens, especially of their bioavailable fraction, i.e. the fraction not linked to the sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG) (Toniolo et al, JNCI 1995; Berrino et al, JNCI 1996; Dorgan et al, Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev, 1966). Several in vitro and in vivo studies have suggested that both sex hormone levels and breast cancer risk can be reduced through dietary manipulation (Adlercreutz, Scand J Clin Lab Invest, 1990; Messina et al, Nutr Cancer, 1994).

We have hypothesized that a comprehensive modification of western diet for the prevention of breast cancer should include: 1) phytoestrogen rich foods, such as traditional soyfoods, other legumes, flaxseed, whole cereals, seaweeds, various seeds, berries and nuts and cruciferous vegetables, which may stimulate SHBG synthesis and modify sex hormones metabolism; 2) low glycemic index food, such as unrefined cereals and legumes, in order to decrease insulin level, which inhibits SHBG synthesis and may stimulate androgen production; 3) factors enhancing insulin sensitivity, such as omega-3 fatty acids, vegetable fibers, vitamin B6, chromium; and 4) less animal fat (except omega-3) and refined carbohydrates in order to reduce body fat and waist to hip ratio, associated with high sex hormones and low SHBG levels.

We have carried out a randomized trial on 104 voluntary post-menopausal healthy women, aged 50 to 65, living in Milan (Northern Italy), at high risk of breast cancer because of high serum testosterone level (above the upper tertile of the distribution) 52 of them were randomized to follow for 4.5 months the diet outlined above, based on mediterranean and macrobiotic recipes, without any recommendation to reduce total food intake, and 52 to follow their usual diet. Compliance with the protocol was 98%. Fasting blood was collected at baseline and after 2 and 4.5 months of intervention and serum was preserved at -80(inf)C to be analyzed for hormones in the same RIA assays. Serum testosterone decreased significantly in the diet group (-18,3%) compared to the control group (-7.0%, P=0.006), and SHBG increased (23.4% versus 4.1%, P=0.000). Dietary intervention also significantly decreased total cholesterol (-13.6% versus -4.6% among controls), body weight (-4 kg versus -0.6 kg) and waist circumference (-3.8 versus -0.4 cm). Other hormonal assays are being carried out.

Thanks for your time ...

Copyright J. Mericle M.D. 2005 All Rights Reserved

http://www.DrMericle.com is devoted to achieving optimal health and peak performance through diet and lifestyle change. Dr. Mericle brings together a unique blend of formal medical education, 29 marathons, 3 Hawaii Ironman competitions and a lot of practical real life experience.

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