There’s been a raft of new research exploring the safety and health impact of consuming soya including a multi author technical review into the issue of whether soya interferes with the endocrine system – just published online (pending print) in the journal Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition.
The latest information is of particular reassurance to vegans as it points not only the safety of soya for all (inc. those at increased risk of breast cancer) and also to its positive impact on a range of health conditions from menopause to muscle loss.
Guidance based on the latest research was provided to 13,000 health professionals inc. dietitians and nutritionists recently by specialist training provider, MyNutriWeb, and has been reviewed by several global experts on soya and nutrition inc. Professor Ian Rowland, Emeritus Professor of Human Nutrition, University of Reading and Dr Mark Messina, Loma Linda University (the lead author of the technical review).
Headlines from research are below and a full copy of the full report is here too: Soya Nutrition, Health & Sustainability The report has a very readable executive summary and all citations are within the body of the report.
New guidance states:
- Men’s testosterone levels[i] are NOT affected by soya isoflavones
- Two 2021 papers[ii] prove that soya is as effective at building muscle as whey products and animal proteins
- Soya can help control hot flushes in menopausal women
- Soya foods and drinks are safe for breast cancer patients and do not increase risk
- Soya does not disrupt the endocrine (hormone) system concludes the most comprehensive ever technical review on soya and health in Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition [online March 2021][iii].
- Most health and nutrition professionals (79%) are witnessing a growing interest in soya from the patients and people that they advise
The report has been reviewed by a panel of experts on nutrition, health and sustainability and summarises the latest evidence on the benefits of soya for heart health, menopause symptoms and a range of other health conditions. It cites research which overrides undue concerns about soya among some consumers. The report and updated guidance has been published by MyNutriWeb, one of the main providers of nutrition education to health professionals in the UK.
The expert panel on Soya Nutrition, Health & Sustainability comprises:
Dr Mark Messina, Loma Linda University, the lead author of an analysis of all 400 published studies undertaken in human subjects which concludes that soya does not disrupt the body’s hormonal (endocrine) system, as is often alleged. He points to the evidence that soya as part of a healthy diet can provide health benefits.
Professor Ian Rowland, Emeritus Professor of Human Nutrition, University of Reading whose research along with other papers indicates that soya is perfectly safe for women with breast cancer or at elevated risk of developing breast cancer.
Dr Mark Driscoll, Founder and Director of Tasting the Future who provided analysis that soya production for humans is vastly more sustainable than meat production and the production of certain other dairy alternatives.
Kate Roberts, Registered Dietitian, Expert in plant-based diets, specialist in paediatrics and allergy who advises her patients to consume soya foods from the age of 6 months as part of a healthy balanced diet.
Elphee Medici, Registered Dietitian, Nutrition & Sustainable Diets Consultant who advises health professionals on practical ways to introduce soya into the diet.
Increasing consumption and some confusion
The rising popularity of soya in the UK diet, particularly in the form of plant-based drinks, has increased the appetite for information on its health and environmental credentials from the public and the professionals whose job it is to inform them.
A survey of 200 dietitians, nutritionists, and other health professionals, conducted in March by MyNutriWeb, revealed that most (79%) professionals are detecting a growing interest in soya from the patients and people that they advise.
Around 4 in 5 (78%) professionals working in nutrition say they’ve been asked questions about the impact of soya on health. Professionals say there is some confusion among the public about whether soya has a positive or negative impact on health status, ranging from cancer to the menopause and even muscle building. Nutrition professionals themselves (96%) overwhelmingly believe that soya food and drinks contribute to good nutrition and health with three quarters (76%) saying it is a source of good protein, equivalent to animal protein.
Dr Mark Messina of Loma Linda University said: “Soya provides high-quality protein and healthy fat. What’s more, independent of its nutrient content, there is intriguing evidence that moderate amounts of soya may reduce risk of several chronic diseases include coronary heart disease, osteoporosis, and certain forms of cancer.”
Kate Roberts, RD Expert in plant-based diets, specialist in paediatrics and allergy said: “I would like it to be more widely known that soya is safe and beneficial in children’s and adults’ diets. It’s amazing how rumours and worries still persist. I want to get the message out there to other healthcare professionals and parents that it’s good to include soya in your children’s diets.”
According to Kantar data, nearly a quarter of UK households (7 million households) have among them spent £216 million in the past year on soya dairy alternatives alone. Soya drinks, which are the most popular way of consuming soya, have seen a 16% increase this year compared to the same period last year.
The expert panel for the Soya Nutrition Health & Sustainability report was chaired by Dr. Hazel Wallace BSc MSc MBBCh ANutr, Doctor and Registered Associate Nutritionist, known as The Food Medic and was part-funded by the Science and Nutrition team at Alpro, enabling the panel to convene and produce the report at no cost to MyNutriWeb’s community of health professionals. All research presented has been subject to academic peer review and is published in independent, academic journals.
[i] Neither soy nor isoflavone intake affects male reproductive hormones: An expanded and updated meta-analysis of clinical studies Katharine E. Reed a, Juliana Camargo b, Jill Hamilton-Reeves c, Mindy Kurzer d, Mark Messina e,* in Reproductive Toxicology 
[ii] Daily Supplementation With Whey, Soy, or Whey-Soy Blended Protein for 6 Months Maintained Lean Muscle Mass and Physical Performance in Older Adults With Low Lean Mass in Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics 
High‑Protein Plant‑Based Diet Versus a Protein‑Matched Omnivorous Diet to Support Resistance Training Adaptations: A Comparison Between Habitual Vegans and Omnivores in Sports Medicine 
[iii] Messina M, Blanco Mejia S, Cassidy Aedin et al. Neither soyfoods nor isoflavones warrant classification as endocrine disruptors: a technical review of the observational and clinical data. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr 2021 Mar 27;1-57. doi: 10.1080/10408398.2021.1895054. Online ahead of print
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