Most of you here are probably aware that soy products have been getting a bad press over the last few years, chiefly due to their alleged effect on men, with its reputation of turning them “gay”, or making them more feminine! This myth continues to resurface, despite their being no evidence of it as fact, and the latest report of this type of scaremongering comes from a Jewish educational institute in Israel. A prominent Israeli rabbi at this Jewish school, Gur's Education Department, has reportedly banned his pupils from eating soy in case it makes them homosexual! He claims that eating soy products just once a week could lead to feelings of gay sexual arousal and homosexual relationships. However it also appears that this Hasidic sect is preoccupied with fighting sexual urges of any kind. (In any case, even if soy does make men gay, so what?)
As we vegans and vegetarians know, soy is a great staple in the diet for most of us, particularly as a substitute for meat and eggs, and I personally eat a moderate amount of it, mostly in the form of tofu. It is reputed to have a lot of health benefits, such as lowering cholesterol and possibly helping to reduce the incidence of prostate cancer, but there have been corresponding claims that it can adversely affect men’s health by disrupting male hormones, due to the high level of phyto-oestrogens in this food product. These substances are chemically very similar to the female hormone oestrogen, so it has been hypothesised that it can produce such symptoms in men as their developing breasts or suffering from low libido, erectile dysfunction, etc (or making men change their sexual orientation to the same sex, rather than the opposite sex). However none of these claims have ever been proven.
Soy was initially touted as one of the new “superfoods”, in particular as a more healthy alternative to full-fat meat. There was then a corresponding backlash, as always seems to happen with these superfoods. What actually happened was that a wide range of organisations (mostly with a pro-meat bias) set out to discredit soy products, and one way of doing that was by claiming that they adversely affect male hormones. In particular, it was claimed that soy-based infant formulas could disrupt hormones in children so that boys could turn out homosexual, but this “evidence” was based on a misinterpretation of the research studies into soy isoflavones. Further studies have shown that whilst breast milk is the preferred option to feed children, there is no evidence to suggest that soy can harm them in the ways postulated.
Men’s health magazines also played their part in this myth-making by publishing articles that made the same health claims as stated above, but now the pendulum seems to have swung back, since the said magazines are now turning out articles actually recommending soy for those who wish to avoid meat, or on a low-fat diet. As with any type of food, the secret is to consume it in moderation. There is no evidence that soy in moderate quantities in a man's diet will harm his hormones, but it's best not to overdo it. One definite concern with soy is that it is one of the food products most likely to be genetically modified, so that is something we vegans should take into account.and lookout for. I always try to buy non-GM soy products, and I don't eat it to excess.
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