Botanical: Glycine max
Family: Leguminosae (legume)
Other common names: Soya, Soybean, Genistein, Daidzein
If you have not included protein-rich Soy in your diet, do it now! The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has given approval to food manufacturers to label their Soy products as an aid to lowering the risk of heart disease. Soy is a rich source of non-animal protein and amino acids, the building blocks of good health. It's also thought to be beneficial for menopausal or postmenopausal women with osteoporosis. As a matter of fact Soy may be beneficial for the whole family!
The information presented herein by Herbal Extracts Plus is intended for educational purposes only. These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not intended to diagnose, cure, treat or prevent disease. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.
The Soybean plant took root as early as the 1100 B.C., one of the early crops cultivated by man. Soy is an annual legume that is native to East Asia and varies in it growing habits. It may grow prostrate, not higher than about eight inches, or even stiffly erect, reaching up to almost seven feet in height. Like many crops of long domestication, the relationship of the modern Soybean to wild-growing species can no longer be traced with any degree of certainty. Today's Soybean is a cultigen with a number of cultivars; however, it is thought that the progenitor of the modern Soybean was a vine-like plant that grew prone on the ground. The Chinese honored Soybeans as one of the five sacred grains, essential for the existence of civilization and considered it both a food and a medicine. Over the next several centuries, the Chinese domesticated the wild Soybean plant, and by the first century A.D., Soybeans had spread to Korea. By the seventh century, it appeared in Japan, Malaysia, the Philippines and virtually all parts of the East, where the virtues of this versatile plant were highly regarded as an important source of protein-rich food. In fact, Soy has remained the chief source of protein for millions of people in the Orient to this day. In the seventeenth century, visitors to the East were intrigued by the variety of foods prepared with Soy and imported Soy sauce into the West. By the eighteenth century, Soybeans were growing in Europe. The first Soybean plants arrived in North America in 1765, and were planted for Soy sauce and noodles for export to England. Gradually, they spread to the vast farming areas of the United States, where they were grown primarily as animal feed and to improve the soil. By World War I, Soybeans were valued as both an inexpensive source of oil and high-quality protein, but the superior nutritive virtues of this versatile plant as a food crop were not really discovered until the 1920s. It is said that the first research conducted on Soybeans in the United States was done by George Washington Carver at Tuskegee, Alabama, before he turned his attention to peanut research. Although Soybeans have been a significant staple of Asian nutrition and cuisine (similar to the way we in the United States regard wheat), demand for this nutritional food has only risen since the late 1950s. Industrial production has grown since then, and by the 1960s, Soy protein products have been used as nutritional and functional food ingredients in every food category available to the consumer. Vegetarians and health enthusiasts have known for years that foods rich in Soy protein offer a good alternative to animal-based products, and because consumers have pursued healthier lifestyles in recent years, consumption of Soy foods has risen steadily. Soy is a protein-righ food, and Soy also includes important isoflavones (genistein, daidzein, glycitein and equol), a peptide (lunasin), fiber, copper, zinc, saponins, phytates, phytosterols, B-vitamins, calcium, iron, magnesium, lecithin, carbohydrate and Omega-3 Fatty Acids (linoleic acid, oleic acid).
Soy is a heart-healthy food. In October, 1999, the United States Food and Drug Administration gave food manufacturers permission to label their products that were high in Soy protein, with the indication that these foods may help lower the risk of heart disease. The FDA determined that diets with daily servings of phytosterol-rich Soy can reduce LDL levels, the low density lipoproteins or "bad cholesterol" that builds up in the blood vessels, while at the same time not adversely affecting the "good cholesterol" (HDL).
As a nutritive, Soy, one of the world's most complete foods, has received a rating of the highest possible score by the World Health Organization for both children and adults. It is important to note that man does not require protein, per se, but man does require specific amounts of indispensable or essential amino acids, the building blocks of protein, and Soy proteins provide all the essential amino acids necessary to fulfill human nutritional requirements for growth, maintenance or management of physical stress.
Apropos of nutrition, scientists from Britain’s Newcastle University suggest that Soy isoflavones may activate anti-ageing proteins and lead to an extension of life. Their research indicates that daidzein in Soy may activate a protein called Sirtuin1 (Sirt1), previously linked to the regulation of ageing and longevity. Pointing to the long-life expectancy and healthy ageing of Okinawans, whose diet is primarily based on Soya as its principal source of protein, the scientists claim that healthy ageing and long lifespan may, speculatively, be the result of Soybean isoflavones potentiating Sirt1 activity.
Soy is believed to be excellent for helping menopausal and postmenopausal women, working to reduce the effects of osteoporosis, as 2009 data from Baylor College of Medicine in Texas indicate that Soy may slow bone density loss. Previous studies suggest that genistein and daidzein have an ability to prevent or reduce bone loss in a manner similar to that of synthetic estrogen due to increased beta-, versus alpha-estrogen receptor binding. Soy may also contribute to maintaining bone density by causing less calcium to be excreted in the urine. A 2015 study from England's University of Hull studied these claims and found that eating a diet rich in both Soybean's proteins and isoflavones can protect menopausal women from bone weakening and osteoporosis.Soy is rich in phytoestrogens, which may, to some extent, substitute for the body's own estrogen, if it is manufacturing too little. Since estrogen depletion is strongly associated with osteoporosis, this effect is very important. Additionally, mild hormone activity appears to help relieve many of the other unpleasant symptoms of menopause.
Soy is highly digestible, does not curd, is alkaline, and has been called beneficial for the symptomatic relief of stomach ulcers, duodenal ulcers, indigestion and other digestive discomforts.
Ongoing and promising research has demonstrated that Soybeans and Soy products can increase the body's resistance to serious malignant diseases. Both isoflavones, genistein and diadzein, appear to demonstrate strong antioxidant and phytoestrogenic properties that may be particularly effective against prostate cancer in men, malignant cell proliferation in women's breasts and colon cancers in both sexes. Studies have shown that isoflavones from soy, specifically genistein, daidzein and equol, interrupt cell growth pathways, and therefore might slow both the development and progression of unhealthy, cancerous cells. In addition, isoflavones have been shown to influence the production, metabolism, and excretion of testosterone and estrogens, which may be of some help in promoting good breast and prostate health.
With regard to colon cancer, in 2013, researchers from the University of Illinois found that the Soy peptide, lunasin, reduced colon cancer metastasis in animal models.
The scientists learned that lunasin can penetrate the cancer cell, cause cell death and interact with at least one type of receptor in a cell that is ready to metastasize.
According to published information from Memorial Sloan-Kettering Hospital, Soybeans contain at least five anticarcinogenic phytochemicals: isoflavones, saponins, phytates, phytosterols and protease inhibitors, and pilot studies suggest that Soy isoflavones have antioxidant activity. Genistein demonstrates antiproliferative effects in multiple cell lines including breast cancer (estrogen receptor positive and negative), prostate cancer, neuroblastoma, sarcoma and retinoblastoma.
Further supporting Soy's potential use in oncology treatments, the key Soy isoflavone, genestein, is thought to interrupt multiplication of malignant ovarian cells, and according to studies conducted at the Indiana University School of Medicine, when Soy is combined with Quercetin at the same time, they enhance each other's effects. The genistein content in Soy protein powder is said to offer protection against leukemia and considered even more effective when taken with Quercetin.
Research from Japan and Australia (2009) claims that consumption of Soy products could reduce the risk of lung disease and breathlessness. The five-year study indicated that Soy was positively correlated with lung function and inversely associated with the risk of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). The observed benefits, consistent with findings from previous studies, could be a result of the anti-inflammatory benefits of Soy, but ongoing research explores the basis for the protective underlying biological mechanism.
Currently, there are no warnings or contraindications with the use of Soy. However, speak with your doctor before taking Soy if you are taking prescription medications: levothyroxine (Synthroid, Levothroid) or warfarin (Coumadin). Some people may be allergic to Soy, and women who consume a diet high in Soy may experience late or longer periods. Soy may reduce the amount of iron used by your body.
Soy was mentioned in an article from the American Academy of Family Physicians regarding usefulness as an alternative therapy for Osteoarthritis. Read this article from the American Academy of Family Physicians' website on "Alternative Therapies for Traditional Disease States: Osteoarthritis."