Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The Hidden Dangers of Soy: Book Review by ChristineMM

Title: The Hidden Dangers of Soy
Author: Dianne Gregg
Publication: Outskirts Press Inc., February 2008
ISBN: 9781432717025
Format: paperback book
Retail price: $17.95
Author’s website: www.hiddensoy.com

Rating: 2 stars out of 5

Disclosure: The author sent me a review copy of this book for the purpose of writing a book review on my blog.

In “The Hidden Dangers of Soy” Dianne Gregg seeks to warn readers that contrary to popular belief or advertisements, soy is not a health food and can in fact harm a healthy person, and it can even deadly for some people who end up developing an anaphylactic soy allergy.

Gregg explains that soy has natural toxins that react badly in the human body. She states that soy can cause hypothyroidism in a person who formerly had no thyroid problems. Despite soy being in some diet foods and sometimes being recommended as a protein which is free of saturated fats, Gregg states that it can cause weight gain (due to it negatively affecting the thyroid which slows down the metabolism). Testimonies are given in the book that say that thyroid surgeries had to be performed due to what the people feel was caused by soy consumption. Gregg is adamant about explaining that unless soy is fermented with special processes, the natural toxins are dangerous for human consumption, and that many American processed foods with soy in them (i.e. soy milk) are not processed in the way to make them less dangerous. The book explains that people can suffer with mild symptoms from soy consumption (i.e. abdominal pain and/or bloating) and some suffer in worse ways (thyroid disease, large weight gain).

Gregg’s own interest in this topic came when she found out she had an anaphylactic allergy to soy. After emergency treatment for an anaphylactic shock allergic reaction her self-education journey to learn more about soy began. The book then goes on to address soy allergies. Because soy is in so many processed foods and is used in preparing some restaurant and hotel foods, it is hard to eradicate it from the diet unless you cook everything at home from scratch and stick more to whole foods. The book explains that soy is in many foods that a person may not realize. However those who already are well read on issues with nutrition may not learn anything new in what is revealed.

Gregg discusses the soy growing industry in America and the history of how soy became an ingredient in so many processed foods. There is discussion of the history of the advertising and marketing of soy products is covered. Gregg states that soy is not a health food and provides references to studies that show that soy does not do all that some past media reports, advertising or product manufacturers claim it does (i.e. lower cholesterol). So far it seems to me that Gregg is a lone voice in the wilderness calling out the warnings.

Included in the book are recipes cooking meals from scratch which do not have soy products in them. I was surprised that the recipes were included in the book as anyone can get any cookbook or search the Internet for recipes that can be made at home from scratch. There is nothing special about the recipes. Gregg makes it clear that she is upset at having to prepare her meals from scratch at home and that she cannot rely on the use of processed and prepared foods purchased at the grocery store. The fact of the matter is that many Americans choose to eat meals cooked from scratch for a variety of reasons ranging from cost savings, that they have a higher nutritional content, less sodium and less chemicals and because the foods taste better anyway. Gregg’s resentment from cooking from scratch is clear and it is a shame that she feels that way because many of us feel that consuming foods that we cook from scratch is not just healthier for many different reasons but tastes better anyway. Many people including myself reject the many offers of convenience foods for sale in our grocery stores; just because they are there does not mean we should be eating them.

A downside to the book is the author’s anger and emotion is clear throughout the book and she seems to be lashing out at the soy industry. The bitterness toward the soy industry is very apparent. It is so direct in some areas that I worry that the author may be sued by the soy industry. (Remember what happened to Oprah when she said on television that she would not be eating beef anymore, after hearing about Mad Cow?)

Additionally I am surprised that Gregg did not come down on the vegetarians and vegans, the people themselves who are part of the movement to consume more soy? Why did Gregg not chastize them for helping pursuade other people to consume something that may actually harm their health? We need to remember that we (people) are pressured by the vegans and vegetarians to stop eating animal protein and to increase our soy intake as a healthy and better protein source.

I would have preferred a deeper investigation and explanation of how healthy people can harmed by soy consumption, specifically, how soy is said to damage the thyroid. The testimonies were a bit unclear about whether thyroid problems were reversible or not after soy consumption is stopped. I would have liked more direct referencing to studies that showed a link to soy consumption and thyroid problems.

I have lived with people (my children) with food allergies requiring an elimination diet and I know it can be difficult to find foods without certain ingredients. I understand that eating in restaurants or eating at parties or relative’s homes can be very difficult, so I have empathy. With that said I would have preferred more of a clear separation of the issues with soy consumption with non-allergic people versus the issues with those who do have a soy allergy. Another topic not made clear is how perhaps eating soy without a problem for some time can end up resulting with a soy allergy at some point.

Lastly the book does not discuss food allergies in general in a basic way, so as to explain to the reader who may not know much about food allergies, how it develops and how it can be managed. Also leaky gut was not addressed which was a shame. Lastly there is nothing said about the different remedies or strategies for treating food allergies such as nutritional supplements, fixing the leaky gut or other measures. The author only discusses living with an elimination diet for the person whose allergic reaction is anaphylactic.

The book is short too, which is a shame. I felt that the book should have gone deeper and should have been more comprehensive and gone longer. At the very least the author could have provided references for the reader to learn more about food allergies, thyroid problems and other related topics.

I feel this is an important topic that needs more investigation. What I would hope is that Gregg goes back and revises and expands this book to dig deeper and find more research and examples so it is very clear that this is not just Gregg’s opinion or imagination. I also would hope that she would find an editor that can help the book come across more objective and less emotional. At some points I worried that Gregg’s perspective or interpretation of study results may have been tainted by her justified worry over a possible future anaphylactic shock and her bitterness about misinformation in the media and advertisements (whether intentional or accidental). Anger can be channeled into energy to power something like writing a book but that anger need not come across so blatantly within the pages. A longer book that is more comprehensive would justify the cost of the book.

In the end my eyes were opened and I am now cautious about soy. I will be researching this further and keeping this information in mind when making food purchases for me and my children.

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Sunniemom said...

Thanks for the review- I tend to avoid books on nutrition that are barely more than a 100+ page rant, but there are definitely some issues that need to be investigated and addressed.

My family doc some years ago told me that from the research he had done, in his opinion the use of soy was causing early puberty in girls, as well as the... 'feminization' (can't think of the word he used) of boys. He said he was seeing more and more boys on soy diets that were growing breasts, their voices weren't changing, and there were other symptoms that mimicked excess estrogen. He believed it was the soy in their diets.

There is definitely more research needed about the proper diet for young people in their formative years.

christinemm said...

I neglected to mention the parts about early puberty in girls and how it affects boys too. I don't want that for my boys!!

The book said some girls at age 1 and 2 are showing signs of puberty by way of budding breasts and pubic hairs.

That stuff is freaky too.

Our family doesn't eat much soy, mostly in protein bars for snacks and to get protein. Now I am cutting them out. Not worth the risk.

sage said...

This is interesting... With a daughter who is now allergic to milk and milk products, soy is a necessity for a girl who loved milk and ice cream. Came over from Semicolon's blog.