Oct 052012

As a public health nutritionist I make attempts to stay in contact with current research in the field of human health and nutrition. An interesting phenomena in recent years has been the exploding growth of the use of soy products. Soy has been an accepted substitute for meat and dairy products for many years in the West and its use is continuing to grow.

In Asia soy products have been used for several millennia as protein substitute for people without easy access to meet, as a flavouring agent and as a nutritious food product. However its use in the West has not paralleled its use in Asia, as in Asia energy intakes are quite low.

In the West soy products have most often been a part of a high-energy diet. This high-energy diet has been question many times over the years by health professionals. Outcomes of these high-energy diets have been autoimmune diseases such as arthritis, osteoporosis, multiple sclerosis, lupus, some forms of cancer as well as type II diabetes. Interestingly, some recent research has started to look at the effects of diet on antisocial behaviour in children.

In line with this new research I have made it a point to stay current on research on soy products specifically on the phytoestrogens in soy products. While much research in the lab has been done on the effect of phytoestrogens little field research has been done in this area. However a recent research project [1]published in hormones and behaviour looked specifically at dietary intakes of phytoestrogens in the normal diets of red colubus monkeys in their normal habitat. This research shows an interesting change in the behaviour of these monkeys during seasons when their food supply included by levels of phytoestrogens.

The more the monkeys consumed oestrogenic plants the higher their rates of aggression and the lower their time spent on interpersonal relations. This raises an important question for parents who choose foods or dietary behaviours that contain high levels phytoestrogens.

An important question raised by this research is what is a safe level of soy intake in our children’s diets?

[1] ScienceDirect.com – Hormones and Behavior – Estrogenic plant consumption predicts red colobus monkey (Procolobus rufomitratus) hormonal state and behavior. (n.d.). Retrieved October 2, 2012, from http://www.sciencedirect.com.libraryproxy.griffith.edu.au/science/article/pii/S0018506X12002280


  One Response to “Soy, a friend or not?”

  1. Thanks for posting this important information. I believe in moderation of all food I put in my mouth.