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childhood soy intake

Posted Apr 01 2009 2:53pm
When I speak on childhood nutrition, a common concern is soy intake and it's relationship to children's hormonal status. Many mothers have been taught (by people paid by the Dairy Council, I believe) that the plant estrogens in soy can mess up a child's development.

In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. A brand new study just proved this, again.

A study called "Childhood Soy Intake and Breast Cancer Risk in Asian-American Women", published online in the Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention Journal (vol.18), shows that Asian women who consumed the greatest amount of soy as children (under age 12) had a 60% lower risk of developing breast cancer as adults.

The study also showed a lower risk of breast cancer in women who consumed the most soy in adolescence and adulthood (20-25% less risk).

One of the reasons why I believe we see this enormous benefit of plant estrogens in children is because those who consumed the most soy were likely to enter puberty later. Myriad studies show that the later girls enter puberty, the lower the incidence of breast cancer in adulthood. Because plant estrogens in soy and other plant foods (fruit, veg.s, whole grains and legumes) lower real estrogen levels when they are unnaturally high by blocking the receptor sites on cell membranes, girls consuming more plant estrogens - whether in soy or other plant-based foods - would enter puberty at an optimum time, believed to be around age 17.

If entering puberty at age 17 sound far-fetched to you, know that plenty of young girls eating a vegan or vegetarian diet have this experience. It also used to be common in Western countries up to the turn of the 20th century, when meat was a luxury, due to lack of refrigeration. This age is still common for girls today in developing countries, where a plant-based diet is the norm for families who are not wealthy. In contrast, breast cancer is extremely uncommon.

One more thing: I am not a huge proponent of processed soy foods on a regular basis. You know, where you just exchange a hamburger for a Boca burger. Don't get me wrong, a Boca burger is a million times better than a hamburger, but because it's processed, as opposed to tofu, tempeh, miso, edename, or soy milk, it's lost a lot of nutrients and I put it in the category of "processed foods" as opposed to "plant foods". So make those fake meats only an occasional part of your diet.

And help dispel the myth that soy estrogens are anything but beneficial!
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