Whole Soy Story?
truths and untruths do not a whole story make
The Whole Soy Story: The Dark Side
of America's Favorite Health Food
By Kaayla T. Daniel, PhD, CCN
NewTrends Publishing, Inc.,
Hardcover, 440 pages, $41.95
by SYD BAUMEL
you've ever wondered how a slick prosecutor would throw the book at a beleagured
health food, this book's for you. But reader beware: there's no defense
attorney in the courtroom that is The Whole Soy Story. Unless you're
an expert on the voluminous science of soy or have a few months to pore
through medical journals fact-checking author cum prosecutor Kaayla
Daniel's forty-four pages of references (and the important references she
left out), you may find it hard not to be bamboozled by her slick 394-page
indictment. But if you do know enough about the science of soy to catch
Daniel attempting to pull the wool over your eyes over and over again,
you'll write this book off as an outrageously tainted resource that can't
not entirely surprising, given Daniel's background.
of the so-called “soy-bashing” you can find on the Internet and in print
can be traced to Sally Fallon and Sue Enig, the food activists who run
the Weston A. Price Foundation, and lately to their protegee and fellow
Weston Price board member, Kaayla Daniel. The Whole Soy Story is
edited by Fallon who owns the small book company that publishes it.
to the Weston A. Price Foundation's website,
its mission is “to disseminate the research of nutrition pioneer Dr. Weston
Price....Dr. Price's research demonstrated that humans achieve perfect
physical form and perfect health generation after generation only when
they consume nutrient-dense whole foods and the vital fat-soluble activators
exclusively in animal fats.” (Emphasis mine.)
Weston A. Price Foundation food activists, the 1930s research and speculation
of a Cleveland dentist have translated into an aggressive 21st century
bias against plant sources of fat and protein. Soy – a major competitor
with the butter, lard, pork and other animal fat and protein sources promoted
by the Foundation – is squarely in their sights. The Weston Price gang
is so determined to throw everything they can at soy and hope it sticks
that they spin and distort the evidence to the point of making their critiques
useless for consumers who hunger for a fair reckoning, for the real whole
story. Like Fallon and Enig's articles, Daniel's book teems with one-sided
errors, exaggerations and half-truths. I will give a few examples here.
For more debunking of the Weston Price Foundation's assault on soy, see
by John Robbins and the wave of outraged letters to the editor provoked
by an abridgement of Daniel's book that appeared in Mothering Magazine
in 2004 (mothering.com/sections/extras/soy-letters.html).
her case mostly on a selective reading of animal studies (a common thread
throughout the book), Daniel suggests that the rise in soy consumption
in the West could be a cause of rising thyroid cancer rates. “Soy can almost
certainly be blamed for at least some of the increase in thyroid cancers
in that soy isoflavones [weak, estrogen-like compounds found naturally
in soy] induce both goiters and thyroid tumours,” she asserts. I searched
Medline (the index of the world's biomedical research) for an unbiased
overview of the research on “thyroid neoplasms” (benign or malignant thyroid
tumours) and “soy.” I found just three papers, none of which Daniel thought
important enough to tell her readers about (ironic, because Daniel is always
quick to accuse soy-friendly scientists and “soy apologists” of suppressing
evidence – even when they're not: for example, see
the letter from Dr. B. L. Strom in
study found that high doses of soy isoflavones failed to increase the
effect of a thyroid carcinogen in rats. In the other two papers (here
researchers from the Northern California Cancer
Center sought to find out why Southeast Asian
women living in the United States have a high rate of thyroid cancer. Soy
wasn't one of the reasons. Women who consumed the most soy had nearly half
the risk of those who consumed the least.
five-year clinical trial in which six out of 179 postmenopausal women
taking a very high dosage (150 mg) soy isoflavone supplement developed
endometrial hyperplasia. None of the 197 women who took a placebo did.
“Endometrial proliferation is a precursor of cancer,” Daniel warns, implying
the women can look forward to a date with the oncologist. She doesn't mention
that all of them developed the relatively benign, non-atypical form of
endometrial hyperplasia. Research
suggests this condition carries a 2% risk of progressing to endometrial
cancer - little different from the 1 to 2% risk for women in general.
Nor does Daniel reassure her readers that, a year earlier,
study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute
found that women who had spontaneously consumed the most dietary soy isoflavones
were 40 percent less likely than those who consumed the least to have been
diagnosed with endometrial cancer. Among the postmenopausal women in the
study (they're at highest risk), soy was associated with a 56% lower risk.
According to the authors of the study: "Only one [other] study has directly
examined the effects of phytoestrogen-rich foods on endometrial cancer
In Hawaii’s multiethnic population, greater consumption of tofu alone or
in combination with other soy products was associated with a 50% reduction
in endometrial cancer risk."
goes to great lengths to convince readers that soy will put them at risk
for pancreatic cancer. “As for the rising rate of pancreatic cancer,” she
writes, “scientists have known for half a century that trypsin inhibitors
in soy protein put stress on the pancreas, contributing to and possibly
causing pancreatic cancer (see Chapter 16).” In a pretense to objectivity,
she advises: “As yet, human studies do not clearly connect soy protease
inhibitors to pancreatic cancer. However....” Not included in Daniel's
“howevers” (notably, soy seems to make the pancreas secrete more digestive
enzymes) are any of the studies that have actually looked at soy consumption
and pancreatic cancer in humans.
In a 1996
study from Sapporo Medical University in Japan, people diagnosed with
pancreatic cancer were significantly more likely than healthy controls
to a) eat more “meats and animal viscera” and b) eat less “vegetables and
the traditional Japanese foods, e.g., tofu, deep-fried tofu, raw fish,
years later, in a similar
study from the same institute, the researchers found that
"consumption of fish, all soybean products, tofu (bean curds), and natto
(fermented soybeans) was associated with decreased risk" of pancreatic
cancer. Comparing subjects who ate the most (top 25%) with those who ate
the least (bottom 25%), the risk reduction was approximately 50% for fish,
tofu and all soybean products combined - and 75% for natto. Moderate meat
consumption doubled the risk compared to low consumption.
American study that followed 34,000 healthy California Seventh-day
Adventists for seven years, "increasing consumption of vegetarian protein
products, beans, lentils, and peas as well as dried fruit was associated
with highly significant protective relationships to pancreas cancer risk."
While I've only read the abstract of this study, among Seventh-day Adventists
- a large proportion of whom are vegetarian - "vegetarian protein products"
and beans largely equate to soy. Indeed, the abstract attributes the anti-cancer
effect to "frequent consumption of vegetables and fruits high in protease-inhibitor
content." Ironically, it's these protease inhibitors - which abound in
soy - that Daniel uses weak animal and human evidence to smear as instigators
of pancreatic failure and cancer. If only she had told her readers about
the studies that "clearly [fail to] connect soy protease inhibitors
to pancreatic cancer."
is constantly alleging or insinuating that scientists who publish soy-friendly
research are in the pocket of the soy industry. None of the three soy-positive
studies above for which I was able to find funding information online declared
any support from industry. Rather, all or most support came from the National
Cancer Institute of the United States.
doctors like Andrew Weil and scientists with no axe to grind, the prevalent
view is that one, two, or even three servings of soy per day are safe,
nutritious and possibly preventive of such diseases as prostate cancer
and osteoporosis. (Some soy-friendly doctors like Andrew Weil are wary
of highly processed soy protein “isolates,” “concentrates” and similar
refined soy products. Daniel demonizes them as one step up from toxic industrial
waste.) There are only a few caveats in most scientists' minds: soy eaters
with hypothyroidism may need to up their dosage of thyroid hormone; those
who are iodine-deficient may become hypothyroid if they eat too much; and
soy may add fuel to the fire of estrogen-positive breast cancer (or it
may fight or prevent it – the jury is out).
the vast majority of studies of soy and health are neutral or positive,
it has to be said that a small proportion of weak, preliminary or otherwise
inconclusive studies suggest soy may increase the risk of other health
disorders. These include bladder cancer; leukemia and developmental disorders
in fetuses and infants overexposed to soy; and Alzheimer's disease in adults.
I know that sounds scary, but statistically one would expect one in every
20 studies to give a negative finding about soy by chance alone. Even scarier,
in my view, is a health book that persistently misleads and manipulates
readers while pretending to enlighten them.
2000, Eatkind.net publisher Syd Baumel
(a soy-loving vegan) wrote one of the first feature
articles to question the safety of soy.