Here’s my story. Five years ago my physician performed a simple blood test. Upon return of the results he informed me that I had the testosterone level of a field mouse. He was concerned so he prescribed testosterone which initially involved an injection of testosterone in his office. I left the office and I noticed a surge in my energy level in addition to a return in my sex drive. This lasted for about one week. In addition I experienced an increased level of aggression. I was told to return in a month and I explained the results to my doctor. He then said that he would use less testosterone and give me injections more frequently. I was given another injection and told to return in two weeks. Once again I experienced a surge in my sex drive and energy level though the duration of this did not last as long. Unfortunately I also experienced an increased amount of aggression. I returned to my physician and he said that he would reduce the dosage and increase the frequency to weekly injections. This change did offer some benefit however it was short-lived due to the fact that my PPO insurance plan said that they would not cover weekly visits and injections at my physicians office. I was then prescribed a prescription gel to rub on my body every day. This went on for several months and the gel was everywhere including on my hands, on my clothes, and god forbid if I was allowed to come into contact with other people as they could possibly absorb some of this testosterone.
The icing on the cake was when I learned that using all of this exogeneous testosterone actually leads to a decrease or a shut down of natural testosterone production within the body. Concerned as I was I decided that the benefits of all this testosterone supplementation had drawbacks and was not the answer for me.
This is where the SOY comes in. Research shows that prior to the 21st Century soy was rarely if ever used in the production of food for human consumption. Even in the Asian culture soy usage was limited to times of extreme food shortages. When it was used Asians carefully prepared the soy by using a long fermentation process (6 to 9months) to remove soy toxins. In 1998 soy consumption by Asians was validated and it was found that Asian men consumed 8.00 ± 4.95 g of soy/day and that Asian women consumed 6.88 ± 4.06 g of soy/day (Nagata C, Takatsuka N, Kurisu Y, Shimizu H; J Nutr 1998, 128:209-13). The soy products consumed were tofu (plain, fried, deep-fried, or dried), miso, fermented soybeans, soy milk, and boiled soybeans. Soy consumption today in English speaking countries is approaching 220 G of soy/day which far exceeds what Asians typically consume. How did this happen and why be concerned? Well soy use in food production is now in almost everything so it seems. In addition clinical research has shown that soy decreases testosterone levels. In one study a 76% reduction in testosterone production in men was documented (Zhong, et al. “Effects of dietary supplement of soy protein isolate and low fat diet on prostate cancer.” FASEB J 2000;14(4):a531.11). Another study by Nagata C, et al. “Inverse association of soy product intake with serum androgen and estrogen concentrations in Japanese men.” Nutr Cancer 2000;36(1):14-8. This study in Japanese men showed that increased soy intake was related to decreased testosterone levels. An additional study in healthy adult males compared a diet containing soy to one using meat as a source of protein. Testosterone levels were significantly lower in the group with a soy diet. In addition the amount of “free” testosterone was reduced by 7% in the soy diet group (Habito RC, et al. “Effects of replacing meat with soyabean in the diet on sex hormone concentrations in healthy adult males.” Br J Nutr 2000 Oct;84(4):557-63). No wonder unfermented soy is reserved for cheating spouses in the Asian culture. A visit to a food market in Tokyo you will not find shoppers loading up on soy milk, soy cheese, soy yogurt, soy burgers, soy chicken, soy chips, and or soy lasagna. I wonder why?
Testosterone levels and prostate enlargement. Well it is known that men produce both testosterone, an important male hormone, and small amounts of estrogen, a female hormone. When men age, the amount of active testosterone in the blood decreases, leaving a higher proportion of estrogen. Studies done on animals have suggested that prostate enlargement may occur because of the higher amount of estrogen within the gland actually increase the activity of substances that promote cell growth. Another theory from scientists suggest that dihydrotestosterone (DHT), derived from testosterone in the prostate, may help control prostate enlargement. Some research has indicated that even with a decrease in the blood’s testosterone level, older men continue to produce and accumulate high levels of DHT in the prostate. This increased DHT may encourage the growth of prostate cells. This is important as scientists have also noted that men who do not produce DHT do not develop an enlarged prostate. DHT is a biologically active metabolite of the hormone testosterone. DHT is produced primarily in the prostate gland, testes, hair follicles, and adrenal glands.
In light of the above I started to look at my consumption of soy. Wow it’s in everything these days. Cereal, salad dressing, non-dairy creamer, pancake mix, and even some breads. Shopping at local health food markets will not save you either. Somewhere these markets have no issue with soy. Despite the fact that 91 percent of soy grown in the US is genetically modified (GM) many health food markets actually ignore this ingredient when they offer it for sale on the shelves. I actually believed that so called “health food markets” did not allow GMO or genetically modified ingredients. This is obviously not the case. One store (un-named) carried eight prostate supplements all with soy as an ingredient. Obviously these prostate supplements were for men. And the chance that the soy used in manufacturing was or is actually fermented for 6 to 9 months is extremely remote.
Ironically and subsequently I have continued to have blood work performed by my physician and for some reason my testosterone levels are no longer on the radar screen or even mentioned in the results. He knows that I am not on testosterone prescriptions or he would be authorizing refills with my pharmacy. What are the changes – hmmmm well I have been making a real effort to reduce soy consumption. It’s important for me to tell you that this article in no way suggests that it is authoritative and/or that it is giving or providing any type of medical advise. As always it is best to consult your medical or health care provider. However I do encourage you to research the facts about prostate health, soy, and testosterone. The following reference provides some information about soy in the USA from 1766-1900. It seems that 1979 was the first introduction of soy milk into the United States reference. At present it is now estimated that 583,000 tons of soy is used each year for human consumption. Soy food sales have increased from $300 million to over $4 billion from 1992 to 2006. The goal is obvious and that is for food processors to use soy to produce more while spending less. Soy use offers benefits including extending shelf-life, reducing crumbling, whitening breads and browning pancakes, and has the added benefit of bringing down production costs. I often wonder if we will see a law firm advertisement in the future that is similar to all these prescription medication cases that are now known to have caused this or that years and years later. It really is up to you the consumer to determine your comfort with this wonder ingredient. It is also up to you the consumer to discern the related concerns to genetically modified ingredients in your diet. Food for thought?