Give soya a break! | Viva! - The Vegan Charity

This week another story is circulating in the media suggesting that soya may actually promote breast cancer: “Could soy cause breast cancer to spread? Protein found to speed up growth of the disease” (Daily Mail 5th September 2014). This headline is based on a US study that looked at how soya supplements affected gene expression in breast cancer patients. They gave 70 patients two packets of soya protein per day and 70 patients a placebo (two packets of cow’s milk protein). Most patients took the supplements for around two weeks. They found that the expression of certain genes increased in the soya group and decreased in the milk group. The dose these women were given was relatively high – 51.6 grams of soya protein per day containing 62mg of the isoflavone genistein (thought to alter gene expression). An average serving of a traditional soya food provides around 10mg genistein, so the amount given would be equivalent to around 6-7 servings of soya food per day; that’s quite lot even for a vegan!

The crucial (and overlooked by the press) finding from this study was that there was no significant difference in the markers of apoptosis (cell death) or proliferation (growth) which is actually reassuring about the safety of soya. The authors suggest that the lack of effect on proliferation might have been because the study was too short and/or because only small amounts of tissue were available. However, other studies conducted over longer periods of time have also found that isoflavones don’t affect cell proliferation. Given the wealth of epidemiological research supporting the role of soya in both breast cancer prevention and improving outcomes in patients with the disease, I think it’s a shame this research will probably be added to the anti-soya brigade’s arsenal of soya-bashing stories as ‘evidence’ of how harmful soya can be…

The humble soya bean has to be one of most maligned ‘bogeymen’ of the nutritional world. Despite one scare-story after another about how soya can make men grow breasts, affect sexual development and fertility, there are no human studies to back up these outlandish claims. If soya did half the damage it is suggested it does, wouldn’t we have seen the devastation in China and Japan? It’s a shame there isn’t more research looking at the effects of oestrogen and other bioactive molecules in cow’s milk and cancer risk. Read more here

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PR & Marketing Manager

PR & Marketing Manager

The PR & Marketing Manager is responsible for creating engaging and relevant content across print and digital platforms, liaising with...
Head of Communications

Head of Communications

The Head of Communications is responsible for the management and creative leadership of Viva!’s PR, marketing and web activities. They...
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