Endocrine corruption: Soy’s dirty little secret

This blog was originally published on 12 November 2012.

Since then, I have watched in disgust as the EDC-Free Europe members peddled fear over the very low risk of endocrine disruption from synthetic chemicals while completely ignoring the exponentially higher exposure to phytoestrogens from soy, legumes and coffee. They know this and yet stay silent for lobbying purity and chemophobic message spinning. Meanwhile their vegan followers, unaware of this risk, are feeding their babies soy-based infant formula: a known endocrine disrupting chemical. That these activists choose not to inform their followers of these endocrine threats, while banging on about the silly, non-existent risks, is more than just plain stupid. I find it, frankly, morally deplorable.

None of these excited scenarios came to pass (in fact, sperm counts have been improving), but still campaigners keep playing the endocrine disruption card. Environmental NGO activists know the hard rule that if you want to win a campaign, all you need to do is come between a male regulator and his balls (assuming he had any).

Environmental NGO activists know the hard rule that if you want to win a campaign, all you need to do is come between a male regulator and his balls (assuming he had any).

There have been some interesting theories about how exposure to very low doses of certain chemicals (which activist science proved by giving very high doses to very small, fetal mice) can disrupt the endocrine system, but most experiments have been discredited or deemed non-replicable in realistic situations. But like the “I don’t beat my wife” denial complex, 100 bad research endeavours only adds further to the suggestion that there must be something there (and, of course, more funding for further research). There is indeed ample evidence that certain chemicals have potential endocrine disruption properties. The problem for environmental activists who have been using the “Sword of Endocrine” to beat their enemies is that these chemicals are entirely natural and widely consumed … BY VEGETARIANS!

Soy it ain’t so!

Soybeans (and other legumes like chick peas) have far higher endocrine disrupting properties than any potential risks found in synthetic chemicals. Soy contains phytoestrogens called isoflavones which is a known (not believed to be, but known) endocrine disruptor.

This is interesting given that many environmental activists are strict vegans sticking to an organic lifestyle and unwittingly consuming far greater volumes of endocrine disrupting chemicals in their choice of soy products for their dietary protein. When the Risk-Monger, facing a strange vascular disease, decided earlier this year to go vegetarian, he was aware of the risks and benefits of soy as a protein replacement. Tests recently showed a sharp increase in cortisol in his blood, an indication of his endocrine system possibly being influenced by his soy-centred diet. More tests are forthcoming, but evidence suggests that the endocrine disrupting properties in soy are at work.

An infant exclusively on soy formula consumes the equivalent of five birth control pills a day

Why should we be worried about soy?

Approximately 25% of US bottle-fed infants are consuming soy at extremely high doses for their body weight and age. Should we really be so concerned about potential endocrine disruptors from trace levels of BPA exposure from plastic bottles given that babies are mainlining on isoflavones in their soy milk? It is estimated that an infant receiving exclusively soy formula would be consuming the equivalent of five birth control pills per day (Irvine et al: The Potential Adverse Effects of Soybean Phytoestrogens in Infant Feeding, New Zealand Medical Journal,1995 May 24:318). A 2001 University of Illinois study shows that the estrogen levels in soy are sufficient to stimulate breast cancer cells in mice. According to the Guardian, soy is in 60% of all UK processed food. The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests that soy formula fed to infants could contribute to the early onset of puberty. 

But Risk-Monger, this must be complete nonsense! Soy is natural, it is good for us and vegans swear by it. We are told, again and again that endocrine disruption, early onset of puberty, rise in breast cancer and diminished fertility rates are all caused by synthetic chemicals (those nasty plastics and pesticides), and that we must take precaution immediately and ban these terrible things! We have said it so many times that it must be true. You must be paid by the chemical industry to spread such terrible lies about a vegetable!!!

Yes, there is that charming and tired “Lobbyist!” argument again: factless and fickle-free. Indeed, this distortion of facts by activists who clearly know this information about soy, but choose to ignore it to continue their non-scientific campaigns against plastics and pesticides, is what I refer to as endocrine corruption.

A recent article in the journal, Pediatrics, by “non-lobbyists” should be quoted:

Of the many heat-stable factors present in soy formulas, the phytoestrogens are of particular interest in human health. Phytoestrogens consist of several groups of nonsteroidal estrogens, including isoflavones. Isoflavones are commonly found in legumes, with the highest amount found in soybeans. Concerns raised in relation to phytoestrogens/isoflavones include their potential negative effects on sexual development and reproduction, neurobehavioral development, immune function, and thyroid function.

Why the secrecy?

So why don’t we play the risk-relative soy card and bring these arguments into the “possible endocrine disruptors” in pesticides debate, especially when European environmental activists are presently licking their chops at the opportunity of using the precautionary principle to ban most existing pesticides for potential endocrine disruption properties (at trace levels) and threaten to force European food production levels back to the 18th century (except of course for soybeans … as they are mostly genetically modified in any case … what a delightful irony)? Surely the pesticide producers can highlight the much higher endocrine exposure levels of soy and put an end to this regulatory silliness that threatens our food security levels.

Well … no … sadly, the industry won’t do that. It seems that many of the crop protection producers also are involved in the seed technology business, and would not be interested in giving soy a black eye to save their pesticide sales. Once the inevitable precautionary bans take effect, food prices will go up and that will compensate for any lost sales. Score an easy win for the silly alarmists and a major loss for affordable, safe food supply and those wishing to reduce famine. This is soy’s dirty little secret: facts on endocrine disruption are allowed to grow lonely as no one is motivated to communicate them or put other risks (like plastics or pesticides) into context.

As for the Risk-Monger, he already has three children (and a tired wife), so reducing his hormone levels with soy as a protein replacement is not a very big problem (but as he would someday want grandchildren, he refuses to feed this reproductive poison to his kids). As for the activist vegans wishing to ban all chemicals and force famine on large populations to confirm their purist intentions? Well, I can only urge them to keep eating their soy. Their inability to procreate will be a benefit to future generations.

Photo source

12 Comments Add yours

  1. Get2it says:

    Hey, thanks for the great article. Any suggestions on what to use as replacements in veggie / vegan diets instead? Great arguments, but i’m wondering what is safe ( i know that’s relative) to do / use then.


    1. riskmonger says:

      Eat a balanced diet – I eat a lot of mushrooms for my protein. Reality is that the phytoestrogens, while much higher than the suspected synthetic EDCs, the whole debate is a non-issue for adults. EDCs are not a risk! But feeding babies only soy formula is crazy.


  2. Chunk says:

    So… any actual evidence that soy negatively effects humans?


    1. RiskMonger says:

      If you buy the EDC alarmism, you should be very afraid. Otherwise, no. While soy is worse than most of the suspected synthetic chemicals, there are no negative effects at these dose levels (except perhaps for infants solely on soymilk).


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