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Does soy affect gender development?

Joseph Villers, staff writer

The soy present in much of our food supply contains phyto-estrogens, making this ingredient a touted alternative to hormone therapy for women experiencing menopause; however, soy has replaced many whole foods in America, and is readily eaten by both sexes. Its effect on men appears to be a lowering the male sperm count by one half according to a study released in the July 2008 issue of “Human Reproduction.” Soy is not inherently bad; the ingredient has been used in Asia for thousands of years, but never in such vast quantities, and never unfermented, because unfermented soy contains potent enzyme-inhibitors which can block the absorption of protein. In addition, the fermented soy is consumed with high protein broths and meats to counter the effects of any enzyme-inhibitors remaining. Soy needs to be fermented for months to years, as in tempeh or miso, unlike tofu and bean curd which is quickly processed in aluminum vats, then supplemented with MSG to conceal the strong bean taste.

Freshman Gladfelter worker Keith Bowers demonstrates one of many unfermented soy products served in Gladfelter.

Freshman Gladfelter worker Keith Bowers demonstrates one of many unfermented soy products served in Gladfelter.

The additive to polycarbonate plastics called Bisphenol-A, known as BPA, was found to have “gender-bending” properties by Canadian health officials in October of last year, leading to a push for a total ban of BPA in Canada, where it was found in high concentrations in baby bottles. Health officials found BPA to mimic the female sex hormone estrogen and declared it “toxic”. The ingredient is found in hard plastics such as CD cases and Nalgenes, and as the inside lining for bottles and cans.

In 2005, BPA was found in the urine of 95 per cent of Americans sampled by the CDC in Atlanta. The most striking consequence of these estrogen-like compounds has been retarded male sexual development and the increasingly early development of the female. This has been observed in parrots fed solely on soy protein isolates. The ingredient is known to give parrots earlier, more brilliant plumage; from a commercial standpoint the early-blooming birds are an easy sell.

At the same time, the lifespan of the parrots went from twenty years to two years, and their red plumage appeared at three weeks as opposed to nine months. This has been acknowledged by the U.K. Parrot Society as a risk to be well aware of when feeding your bird soy.

Dr. Mike Fitzpatrick, a New Zealand toxicologist, found that infants solely fed on soy formula received the estrogenic equivalent of at least five birth control pills a day.


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