Originally published in December 2002 icon
Soya Milk. Is this the White Stuff?
The cultivation of soy or soya in the East can be traced back to the Chou Dynasty in China, which began in 1136BC although it does not seem to have been used as a food substance until people had begun to ferment it some 400 years later. The soya bean is derived from the soya plant and various soya foods have been a staple diet in the Far East since this time. However, they have only been consumed in the West since the sixties.
The soya bean is the only vegetable source of complete protein; low in fat and devoid of cholesterol and as such is much praised. Soya contains substances that are positive cancer inhibitors and protectors. It has been shown to restrict the blood supply needed for tumour growth and Cancer Research UK recently confirmed its benefits in reducing the risk of breast cancer.
Cancers that are hormonally driven, for example, most breast cancers, can be limited by soya.
Human oestrogen is not a single hormone but a family of hormones, some aggressive, others less so. The most aggressive is oestradiol, which can bind to receptor sites on the membranes of healthy cells and send havic messages into the cell. Oestradiol can drive cancers. Of course, some external chemicals from parabens, BPA, toluene and phthalates can also bind to these receptor sites. Natural compounds such as Indole 3 carbinol can denature oestradiol to its weaker sister oestrone and this causes far less damage to healthy cells.
Plant oestrogens - or phytoestrogens are far, far less harmful and also bind to healthy cell receptor sites blocking attack from more dangerous oestrogens. For this reason, some experts call them anti-oestrogens. Pulses, like soya, and herbs like Red Clover are excellent sources of phytoestrogens and work at the Royal Marsden has shown their worth on fighting oestrogen driven cancers.
Be clear, these receptor sites will take any oestrogen and tamoxifen works in the same blocking way. Personally I´d rather have natural phytoestrogens doing the job for me!
In a Scandinavian research study recently there was a direct line correlation between milk consumption and the rate of prostate and testicular cancers. Soya in this case seems an effective milk substitute. Certainly people should ask themselves why they consume milk, when soya seems to have anti-cancer benefits. Milk consumers are after all in the minority across the world.
The general term for phytoestrogens in soya is soya isoflavones; one in particular, genistein, is 1,000 times more prevalent in the blood streams of women in China and Japan than those in the West. It has been shown to block mammary tumours in animals, and also to prevent the growth of the blood supply to all tumours. This blood supply is essential if a tumour is to grow. Isoflavones are particularly strong cancer blockers. For example, the blossoms of the red clover plant contain high levels and are being tested by the Royal Marsden Hospital currently to study their effect on breast cancer.
Recent research results from a collaborative study between Cancer Research UK, The National University of Singapore and The US National Cancer institute concluded that, "women who eat the most soya are 60% less likely to have breast cancer than those who eat less". The study took over 400 women in Singapore and compared different levels of soya consumption. Dense breast tissue is associated with increased breast cancer risk. Women consuming soya reduce the density of their breast tissue.
Plant oestrogens are not as strong as animal oestrogens but do compete for receptor sites. This study showed another effect of soya, that of lengthening the menstrual cycle. It is thought that the fewer menstrual cycles a woman goes through in her life, the lower her risk of breast cancer.
It is estimated that the equivalent of two and a half bowls of Soya milk per day provides a start level for protection and strengthening, but 30 to 100 gins per day is an ideal amount. Other good sources are of soya are textured vegetable protein, tofu, tempeh and miso. However, there the soya is in a fermented form and there is a debate as to whether the fermented product is as effective as the natural one. Some believe it is not, while others claim that fermented products such as miso and tamari are safer because fermentation reduces the harmful factors. They point to the Chinese, claiming they did not eat soya until they discovered how to ferment it. Furthermore you may want to avoid mass market *soy sauces as many of them are not true soya sauces but made by chemical production, with colourings and additives.
Finally, soya will not contain the essential sulphur amino acids of milk nor will you obtain vitamin B12 or vitamins A and D. You can get these by incorporating rice, sea foods, vegetables and garlic into your diet. Some child soya milk formulae are open to question, with high aluminium content and zinc impairment being sited, as well as possible allergies. However there is evidence that refutes these claims and, for example, aluminium levels are higher in milk.
At the end of all this debate there remains one essential fact. Cancer rates are greatly lower in the Far East and soya is clearly a contributory factor. But it highlights the fact that over thousands of years populations build healthy balanced diets and a balance with their environment and you can´t just take bits of this and transplant it into your own western diet without risking as much as you might gain. At Last - the definitive, research based book on how to build a diet to help beat cancer. Click here to read about it.
*Stick to Tamari - wheat free, organic, traditionally aged in cedar wood kegs with a recipe which limits the water involved. Or, try Shoyu - contains whole-wheat, organic, aged for two years. Both are Japanese, both made with whole soya beans. Buy them, for example, in Holland & Barrett or Sainsbury.
Please be clear: At CANCERactive we do not consider the above compound to be a cure for cancer, despite what the research says or experts doing the research may claim. The above, is an article on the compound from published research and expert opinion in the public domain. At CANCERactive we do not believe that any single compound (drug, vitamin, whatever) is a cure for cancer. We believe that people can significantly increase their personal odds of survival by building an Integrated Programme of treatments. Equally, cancer prevention is best practiced through a width of measures.