Soy Sorry: Part 3 – Hormones In Meat + How To Eat Like A Man + The Truth About Soy Boys

SOY SORRY – PART 3: Hormones In Meat + How To Eat Like A Man + The Truth About Soy Boys

 

The overarching medical and scientific understanding of soy is that it does not cause feminization or man boobs in men (read part 2 for the evidence on that). But what effects do animal products have on those issues? It turns out, animal products have all three categories of estrogen: true animal estrogen; industrial xenoestrogens; and plant phytoestrogens.

Phytoestrogens in meat, eggs, and dairy

Animal products have small amounts of phytoestrogens. That makes sense–especially considering a lot of livestock are fed crops that have phytoestrogens, like soy. 70% of the soy that’s grown in the US is used for livestock feed.1 Some animal products contain more phytoestrogens than some plant-based vegan foods. Of all animal products, milk, dairy, and eggs tend to have the highest amounts of phytoestrogens.2 Meanwhile, foods like potatoes and soy oil, contain virtually no phytoestrogens. So if you truly want to avoid phytoestrogens, apparently your best bet is to replace meat with french fries cooked in soy oil.

 

Industrial xenoestrogens in meat, eggs, and dairy

As metioned in part 2, meat, fish and dairy products tend to be the biggest source (or one of the biggest sources) of human exposure to a huge array of industrial xenoestrogens. These are industrial chemicals that are estrogenic. The most infamous ones that are found in meat, fish, and dairy products are phthalates, dioxins, alkylphenols, PCBs, heterocyclic amines, and polycyclic hydrocarbons. When you read about many of these industrial xenoestrogens, you’ll often find that they “work their way up the food chain” or that they “bioaccumulate.” That almost always means that animal fat (or “lipids”) do a really good job of harboring many of these various xenoestrogens. Pesticides, for example, are sprayed on animal feed crops, which are then consumed by livestock, and then dissolve into animal fat.3 Evan local, organic foods have these issues.4 Dioxins: Meat, dairy, eggs, poultry and fish supply at least 75% of dioxins in the human diet.5 Phtalates: Meat, poultry, cream, and oils like butter and lard are the foods with the most.6 Polyclic hydrocarbons, where more than 90% comes from animal products.7 8 Heterocyclic amines are formed when cooking meat. Some forms of these compounds are estrogenic.9 10 BPA, where the biggest dietary sources are canned food, and among non-canned food: meat and fish products.11 Alkylphenols are most commonly found in chicken and fish (salmon, in particular), and fish oil capsules.12 13 14 15 16 If you want to avoid industrial xenoestrogens, replacing meat, dairy and fish products is apparently a good place to start.

True estrogen in meat and dairy

Animals contain actual estrogen. Unlike soy and other vegan foods, which contain none. As discussed in part 2, even human men have true estrogen. In fact, all vertebrate animals have estrogen–including all the ones people eat for food.17 Men, along with cows and deer and ducks and rabbits and lambs and goats and buffalo and chickens and pigs, all naturally have estrogen coursing through their flesh and veins. The females of each of those species have a lot of estrogen in their eggs and milk. This means if you consume animal products, you are consuming actual estrogen. Milk and dairy products contribute the most (60% to 80%) estrogen to a person’s diet. Eggs contribute about 10% to 20%. And meat and fish contribute 10% to 20%.18

A healthy liver (ie, one that hasn’t been compromised by long-term or excessive drinking) and digestive system eliminates about 90% or so of true estrogen before it can get absorbed into the blood and tissue.19 Because of that, most reputable health and medical sources historically haven’t been too concerned about the effects estrogen in animal products have on humans. But that may be changing.

What about the 10% or so of estrogen that the liver and digestive system doesn’t filter out? Given that true animal estrogen is hundreds to thousands times more potent than phytoestrogens,20 21 if some, even tiny amount, of true animal estrogen is slipping its way through the digestive system, and being absorbed by the body, and then binding to the alpha estrogen receptors, couldn’t animal products be having a feminizing effect on men? These might be small amounts of hormones that aren’t easily detected in blood tests, but still have a powerful feminizing impact. In one report, researchers criticized major health organizations for not taking seriously the impact that the true hormones in meat can have. In their words: “. . . the safety of hormone residues in meat seem to be based on uncertain assumptions and inadequate scientific data . . . The possible biological significance of very low levels of estradiol is neglected . . .”22 This begs the question: do the estrogens in animal products actually have an effect on people?

A special shoutout to milk

I started this blog post off with the story of how I discovered soy milk. I needed something to replace cow’s milk in my diet after I learned that dairy products might be causing my acne breakouts. So I replaced dairy milk with soy milk. My breakouts stopped. As I mentioned in part 1, There are a lot of studies that show this connection between dairy and acne.23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 The exact mechanism of how milk might cause acne is subject to debate. One of the leading theories is that it’s the hormones in milk that cause acne.33 Not the hormones that are sometimes added by dairy companies to milk, but the hormones that milk naturally contains.

If you think about what milk even is, that makes sense. Milk is a liquid secreted by the mammary glands of female animals to feed their young immediately after birth.34 Milk is basically a creamy cocktail of female sex hormones produced by lactating cows. These hormones include estrogen, progesterone, prolactin, and IGF-1.35 36 Milk is the leading source of true estrogen in the diet.37 Again–these hormones all occur naturally in milk. Don’t get confused by the companies that market their products as having “no added hormones.” When milk or meat companies make that claim, they are talking about added growth hormones (rBGH and rBST), which are used to increase the cow’s milk production.38 That claim has nothing to do with the actual estrogen, progesterone, prolactin, and IGF-1 that these products naturally contain. In the recent past, several milk companies marketed themselves as having “No Hormones,” but the FDA put a stop to that because all milk contains naturally occurring hormones.39 These companies are only allowed to make the claim about milk having no added hormones.

The bottom line: Milk (whether conventional milk or free-range, raw, organic, grass-fed milk) contains natural female hormones.

Whether human babies should be consuming cow’s milk is one thing. What I’m interested in is whether anyone older than the age of ‘baby’ should be consuming this stuff. Especially men. What effects does cow’s milk have on people? To be fair to milk, I haven’t seen a major medical source implicate it with the specific condition of man boobs, as much as that would make sense, considering it contains all of the hormones that are believed to cause gyno.

However, there have been plenty of studies that connect milk with other feminizing or estrogenic effects. In 2010, a study found that men absorbed the estrogen in milk, their estrogen levels increased, their progesterone levels increased, and their testosterone levels decreased.40

One review of the research on acne summarized the concern about dairy like this: “. . . drinking milk and consuming dairy products from pregnant cows exposes us to the hormones produced by the cows’ pregnancy, hormones that we were not designed to consume during our teenage and adult years . . .”41

Another review put it like this: “[I]t seems that steroid hormones are very potent compounds in dairy foods, which exerting profound biological effects in animals and humans . . . recently it is found that these compounds even at very low doses may have significant biological effects . . .”42 So, only a tiny amount of estrogen may slip through the liver’s filtering process, but that tiny amount is so potent that it might have a significant effect.

Some researchers believe that the high estrogen and/or progesterone content in the milk may be responsible for promoting the growth of mammary tumors and cancer, among other adverse effects.43 44 45 Other studies have connected dairy food consumption with damage to the testicles and sperm, due to the hormones in milk.46 47 48

Maybe cows have been warning us all along.

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Can veganism make you more manly?

If you’ve read this far, you’re probably interested in what sorts food and lifestyle choices you can make to become more manly, at least on a biological and hormonal level. In other words, what choices increase testosterone or reduce estrogen? The answer to this question might make you rethink vegan stereotypes.

First of all, what do legitimate medical experts say helps increase testosterone? Most legitimate medical experts seem to be hesitant to make claims about a specific food or activity. In most cases, the evidence is weak. Or the impact on your testosterone is temporary, and doesn’t truly improve long-term levels. When it comes to real, long-term improvements in testosterone levels, they all basically say the same thing:49 1) Get plenty of sleep. 2) Exercise consistently, but not too strenuously. 3) Don’t be overweight. 4) Reduce stress. These might seem like the most obvious healthy habits a person could have, but we shouldn’t take them for granted. They happen to be some of the only lifestyle choices that can legitimately increase your long-term testosterone levels.

In the world of food, there are a few choices that mainstream experts do mention regularly:

Zinc, Magnesium, and Vitamin D. Don’t be deficient in Vitamin D, magnesium or zinc.50 Whether you’re vegan or not, these are nutrients that aren’t found in significant quantities in too many common foods.

Magnesium is mainly found in nuts, seeds, avocados, potatoes, spinach, grains, and soy milk, among other foods. Basically no animal products are a great source of magnesium.

Zinc is mainly found in either supplements, beans, fortified cereals, pumpkin seeds, and oysters.

Vitamin D is mainly found in either either supplements, fortified cereals, fortified orange juice, and fortified non-dairy milks.

With the exception of egg yolks (not egg whites), some fatty fish species, organ meats, and certain cuts of beef, there aren’t too many animal products with significant amounts of Vitamin D or zinc. Milk has some Vitamin D, but only because milk producers mix in a Vitamin D supplement to the final product. (Seriously, check the label of your milk. “Milk” probably isn’t the only ingredient.)

You’ll often see blogs name a bunch of different foods as being pro-testosterone. It’s not because the foods listed are magically pro-testosterone. It’s because those foods probably contain solid quantities of magnesium, zinc, and/or vitamin D. To the extent that lists of ‘pro-testosterone foods’ contain animal products, I’m not sure they deserve that accolade, especially considering the exposure so many fattier animal products have to xenoestrogens, as mentioned above.

Dietary fiber. Fiber is only found in vegan foods. No meat, egg, dairy, or seafood products have fiber. Yet fiber intake is connected with lower estrogen levels, thanks to fiber’s impact on several bodily process. One recent study summarized the biology behind it: fiber reduces the recycling of estrogens; it decreases an enzyme that allows estrogens to re-enter the bloodstream; and it binds to estrogen, which increases excretion of estrogens.51

Fiber is also associated with higher SHBG levels.52 As mentioned in part 1, SHBG is a protein that binds to testosterone, and (to a lesser extent) estrogen. So, fiber apparently makes testosterone (and estrogen) less bioavailable by raising SHBG levels. So are low levels of SHBG something you want? This is about to get a lot more confusing, unfortunately. SHGB is also known as the sex hormone binding globulin. Low levels of SHBG should mean more bioavailable testosterone. Yet low SHBG levels are a risk factor for heart disease, diabetes, and certain types of cancer.53

For what it’s worth, typically fitness bloggers are some of the only people I see who explicitly recommend that people aim for lower SHBG levels. Many healthy habits appear to increase SHBG. Exercise, for example, exercise increases testosterone. But it also increases SHBG.54

Confusing, fitness bloggers love exercise, which raises SHBG. But fitness bloggers also recommend having lower SHBG. Same with Vitamin D — it’s associated with more testosterone yet higher SHBG as well.5556

Low glycemic diets are also linked to higher levels.57 While high-sugar diets are linked to lower SHBG levels.58 Yet so are high protein diets.59

Magnesium is associated with lower levels of SHBG.60 Yet, confusingly, the best sources of magnesium are high-fiber plant-based foods, which, as discussed above, raise SHBG.

So what’s the takeaway here? I have no idea. All I know is too many well-established healthy habits, like exercise, low glycemic diets, and eating fiber, all increase SHBG. And too many of our biggest killers are associated with low SHBG. This potentially means less bioavailable testosterone. If you’re searching for perfection in diet, you aren’t going to find it.

Certain phytoestrogens, fruits, and vegetables. As mentioned in part 2, consuming moderate amounts of a bunch of phytoestrogens (consuming the foods that those phytoestrogens are found in) are linked with either lowering estrogen or increasing testosterone.

Indole-3-carbinol has been shown to be anti-estrogenic.61 It’s found in cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, kale, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, among others.

Mushrooms have been shown to have potent anti-aromatase activity.62

Proanthocyanidin, quercitin, and reservatrol. As mentioned in part 2, there’s some evidence that consuming foods with these compounds have varying degrees of either anti-estrogenic or pro-testosterone activity. Some varieties of grapes, berries, onions, and other foods contain these compounds. The list of potentially anti-estrogenic and/or pro-testosterone could go on, but I need to stop somewhere.

What about soy?

Some medical sources specifically recommend soy (and flax) to decrease estrogen, apparently based on the theory that the phytoestrogens in them are largely anti-estrogenic, particularly when consumed in normal quantities.63

Looking at the research on soy and its impact on estrogen and testosterone, it seems like regularly eating normal amounts of soy food (say, 1 to 5 servings per day, rather than the absurd 14 to 36 servings per day) can give men the anti-estrogenic de-feminizing benefits of soy, without going anywhere near the various studies and case reports that show massive amounts of soy might start to have the opposite effect.

Putting it all together, these anti-estrogen and pro-testosterone dietary choices are very vegan friendly. Eat more fiber because it lowers estrogen levels. Eat more mushrooms, certain fruits, and cruciferous veggies because they contain compounds that may be anti-estrogenic or pro-testosterone. If you’re not getting enough Vitamin D, magnesium, and zinc, then look into supplements. Avoid dairy, eggs, and fatty meats and fish because those foods tend to have the most actual estrogen and industrial xenoestrogens. If you follow a pro-testosterone/anti-estrogen, you might be seen as the least fun person at your next family barbecue with all your vegan foods. But you might also become the most manly.

Why you should want others to be vegan

Putting aside the fact that animal products are such a significant source of industrial xenoestrogens and actual estrogens in your own diet–animal products are also the main source of estrogen in the world, period. (No pun intended). Thanks to their poop and urine, livestock in the US and Europe discharge 182,000 pounds of estrogen per year into the world. In comparison, all 7 billion humans in the entire world discharge about a third of that: 66,000 pounds of estrogen.64

Whether it’s factory farming (where unmanageable amounts of animal excrement are concentrated together) or organic farming (where huge amounts of animal excrement are spread to crops), it all contributes to more estrogen in the environment.65 Much of the estrogen ends up in drinking water.66

If you want there to be less estrogen in our water and environment, you should want there to be less livestock farming. The only way to achieve that is for people to stop buying meat and dairy products.

The Soy Boy Stereotype

The term “soy boy” has become a popular insult targeted at men who are seen as un-masculine. According to Dictionary.com, it’s an insult used by alt-right men to demean liberal men for being effeminate; and it “comes from the myth that consuming soy products lowers testerone levels in a man.”67

As the other parts of this blog post show, the soyboy insult is biologically incorrect. Soy doesn’t reduce testosterone or increase estrogen–the hormones responsible for most of people’s masculine or feminine characteristics. But that’s not the only thing fundamentally wrong with the insult.

First of all, there’s no shortage of right-wing alpha males with apparent cases of gynecomastia.

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Look up photos of the president when he’s not wearing a suit, or a photo of a summertime political rally and you’ll see plenty of examples of pronounced man boobs. Whether you’re an alpha-male conservative or a beta liberal, unavoidable low testosterone and/or high estrogen levels affects you just the same.

But perhaps the bigger issue for people who use the insult soy boy is their apparent misconception about what so-called “soyboys” actually eat.

If you look up soyboy memes and photos, many of the stereotypical “soy boys” are men (usually in their 20s or 30s) with full beards. And they often smile with their mouths open.

 

Beards, of course, are an indicator that these men have healthy levels of testosterone, considering one of testosterone’s main functions is the promotion of facial hair growth.68

Whether bearded or not, the classic soy boy look overlaps with the Internet stereotype young, liberal male look. In fact, if you search for images of either soy boy” or “liberal male” the same few characters tend to show up. Arguably the most notable is the “Pajama Boy.”

The Pajama Boy

This meme of the Pajama Boy is one of the top image results for both “liberal male” and “soy boy.”

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Pajama Boy became a viral meme in 2013 and 2014 and his image still persists today. The meme originated when a Democratic Party twitter account posted his photo in an ad promoting Obamacare. Well, some conservatives on the Internet saw the ad and decided that the boy in the pajamas embodies everything they despise.

Various articles summarize the stereotype that Pajama Boy exemplifies to some people: he’s smug; lives in a progressive bubble in a neighborhood in Brooklyn or some equivalent; hipster; tofurkey-eating; pretentious; effeminate; emotionally and physically weak; and of course, liberal.

He is, perhaps, the embodiment of the soy boy stereotype. Again, even in 2019, his photo comes up when you search for either “liberal male” or “soy boy.”

But one crucial part of the stereotype is flatly fake news. And it’s very relevant to this blog post.

The assumption is, Pajama Boy, and other liberal men who probably look, act, and vote like him, are quite likely to be soy-eating vegans.

But I can assure you: the Pajama Boy is not a Soy Boy. And he is certainly not “tofurkey eating” (which, if you read Part 2, you’d know Tofurky products are mostly wheat protein, which is free of phytoestrogens).

Before Pajama Boy went viral, the actual man behind the image had a public Instagram page. It turns out Pajama Boy has a passion far greater than liberal healthcare policy. Pajama Boy is obsessed with…bacon. He posts photos of his bacon socks. He posts photos of his bacon-wrapped shrimp dinner with the caption “Heaven on earth.”

Bacon is the furthest thing from soy. It’s also been determined to cause colorecutal cancer by the World Health Organization.69  That’s something I’d hope any healthcare policy campaigner would be careful not to promote.

It gets worse. Cooking meat a high temperatures (for example: pan-frying bacon) produces carniogenic chemicals. One notable example of these checmicals is called PhIP, which researchers have found to be a “potent estrogen” that induces cancer growth in the breast, prostate, and colon.70

“Bacon boy” has the reputation that “soy boy” probably deserves.

Pajama Boy’s obsession with bacon aligns with my own experience. The kind of people who look and act like the liberal stereotype that Internet conservatives revile probably aren’t vegan.

In my anecdotal experience, the stereotypical liberal urban liberal young man frequent foodie restaurants where everything on the menu is wrapped in bacon. They are the kind of guys who know their way around the stinky artisanal cheese section of Whole Foods. They bookmark recipes for home-made beef jerky. They wait in long lines for pork-filled bowls of ramen. They keep the free-range bison stand at the farmer’s market in business. They drink things like kefir and are interested in the benefits of consuming bone broth.

Again — I know I’m rebutting one stereotype with another. But if you’re a young conservative who wants to differentiate your identity from people who look and act like Pajama Boy, you should probably re-consider your stance on soy and veganism.

 

For good measure, there’s another example of young men whose photos pop up in liberal, soy boy memes. They’re known as the “Try Guys.” These are four guys who make videos on Buzzfeed’s YouTube channel where they ‘try’ things like taking a lie detector test or driving while drunk.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is try-guys.pngFor a lot people who insult liberal men for being “soy boys,” these four have become a target. In one of their more infamous videos, the Try Guys tested their testosterone levels. Alt-right YouTubers and bloggers erupted at this video because, apparently, the Try Guys all had low testosterone. (Frankly, I’m not sure there’s enough info in the video to know that). But anyways, if you search for “Try Guys testosterone,” you’ll find a lot of blogs and comments about how the Try Guys are low-testosterone, effeminate, beta liberal soy boys.

I wasn’t familiar with the Try Guys before this, but as someone concerned with comments that unfairly disparage soy, I was curious if these supposed low-testosterone soy boys are vegan soy eaters. Or, do they fit my experience: the Try Guys eat just as much meat and dairy as their insulters do.

It turns out, the Try Guys are the opposite of soy-eating vegans. These guys eat meat. Lots of it. They are nowhere close to being vegan. Their most popular videos, other than the testosterone video, are them eating from the meat-heavy menus of places like KFC and Taco Bell. You don’t even need to scroll down their personal Instagram pages to find out that they’re fueled by meat products. Like bacon, eggs, cheese breakfast sandwiches. Beef roasts. Smoked meats. Monster turkeys. And pizza with meat toppings.

I wish the Try Guys were soy-eating vegans. They seem to be a pretty popular on YouTube and Instagram. But the fact is, they’re not. But if you dislike the Try Guys because they’re “soy boys”–they’re literally not.

 

Do men who want to become women eat soy?

If soy actually caused feminization, wouldn’t it be used for that purpose?

I sometimes see people defend soy by saying something like “If soy really led to breast growth, wouldn’t it be a crazy popular and lucrative supplement for women who want bigger boobs?” I’m all for a good pro-soy argument, but I don’t think that’s a very strong argument, because women and men are biologically different.

But there is a good argument not too far from that one: there’s a community out there that would be much better to ask. I’m talking about people who were born men, and then decide to transition to become female. Also known as transgender females.

The process of transitioning often involves hormone replacement therapy. What that primarily means is taking bioidentical estrogen–which is identical to true, animal estrogen. Not phytoestrogen from soy or any other plant source. Hormone replacement therapy can cost thousands and thousands of dollars. A block of tofu costs maybe two dollars.

If the myths about soy are true, then the phytoestrogens in soy should be very popular among this community. 

Every academic and scientific source I read about this was consistent: to transition biologically from male to female, you do so with hormones that are bioidentical to true estrogen. There is no mention of phytoestrogen from soy or any other plant-based source. But what do actual transgender people think about this topic? Sure enough, there’s a subreddit where poeple ask transgender folks this exact question: “I heard soy is feminizing. Will soy feminize me?” The responses by the community are consistent: NO. In fact, you should avoid soy and phytoestrogens because the phytoestrogens either do nothing to feminize men, or because the phytoestrogens are anti-estrogenic and have the opposite effect.

Those responses are consistent with the studies mentioned elsewhere in this blog series. True estrogen causes feminization. Phytoestrogens do not.

Why it’s hard to convice people that soy isn’t feminizing

I started this article off with a bunch of common myths that many adults still believe to this day. Which is understandable. You can’t blame people for mistakenly believing that MSG is bad for you. It’s something not many people have actually looked into. I sure didn’t know about it. The truth involves a lot more nuance.71 If I see a product or restaurant advertise “No MSG,” my mind then decides that MSG must be bad. Even though there’s no almost no logical or scientific reason to think that.

The same goes for knowing about the intricacies of phytoestrogens and man boobs. Who has the time to know all of this stuff? The good news, things are changing. Men’s Health, which infamously had a very popular anti-soy article 10 years ago, now seems to be publishing pro-soy articles. More and more news stories seem to be dedicated to dispelling the anti-soy myths.

72 73 74 75

The truth about soy is kind of boring. I mean, really. It’s a bean. It’s a solid source of protein. That should be enough to know, unless you’re eating absurd amounts of it. So what’s keeping this simple truth from being more accepted by men? The fear of soy strikes hard and deep for men. My personal view, after years and years of thinking and reading about this stuff: Many men are very occupied with appearing physically masculine. That includes having a ripped chest. It’s one of the easiest-to-see examples of how ‘masculine’ a guy is. The fact that soy is rumored to detract from manliness makes the fear very powerful. Soy is avoidable, so why not avoid it, if there’s some chance? What this completely ignores is the context. Feminization of men happens just because. So many men–a vast majority–deal with issues regarding their chest appearing flabby or puffy. Testosterone production decreases with age. Medications, drugs, diseases, and body fat are all considered major causes of moobs. Man boobs can emerge in puberty and never go away. Even if you’re in your 20s or 30s, there’s a decent change you have (or had) a couple of centimeters of “asymptomatic” gynecomastia–just because that’s what happens regardless of what you eat or drink.

There is an absurd amount of misinformation out there about soy, especially among a few anti-soy fitness bloggers and youtubers; and among quacky pseudo-science websites. Why are they all so anti-soy?

How the fear of soy is spread

Most of the soy fear and misinformation is spread from two places: one, I call “Your whacky aunt.” The other is the meat and dairy industries.

Your whacky aunt. Think of all the quacky things your whacky aunt posts about on Facebook each day. The aunt who is opposed to vaccinating kids and who believes coffee enemas are the key to health. The aunt who warns others about the dangers of fluoride.

Those are all whacky beliefs. They aren’t grounded in good science. No mainstream health or science organization supports those ideas.

But there is one shady organization that does; and there’s a good chance your whacky aunt learned these things from this organization (either directly or indirectly). I’m reluctant to give this organization anymore attention on the Internet, but there’s a good chance you haven’t heard of them. It’s called the Weston A. Price Foundation. This review summarizes what this organization is all about. 

This is the organization where your whacky aunt gets most of her health and nutrition information, whether she knows it or not. And this organization publishes more anti-soy blog posts than any other source. Basically, they are one of better-known pseudo-science websites that publish quacky homeopathic health advice. They are anti-vaccine; anti-fluoride; pro-raw milk; pro-eating-dandelion-extract-to-detox-your-body. They also happen to hate soy.

Why do all these sorts of health beliefs always seem to go together? Why can’t your whacky aunt be pro-dandelion-detox, but also be pro-vaccination?

Maybe there’s something appealing about feeling like you know something that everyone else doesn’t. Or they have a distrust of health authorities. I appreciate a healthy dose of skepticism, but that skepticism is resolved by looking to sound scientific research and context.

There is a small, but vocal, segment of the population eats this quacky stuff up. I wouldn’t have a problem with it if those beliefs didn’t hurt others. But they do.

Maybe the truth about health and science is too boring for this crowd. It’s more exciting to believe that soy is a cause of countless health issues than to believe that the overwhelming majority of studies have shown no such proof. It’s an unfortunate phenomenon in our society.

The meat industry’s role. The big meat, egg, and dairy companies, and their more secretive industry groups, spend tons and tons of resources to keep people eating meat.76 77 78 79 80

If there is something that’s not explicitly against the law that might help them maintain their monopolies on our diets, then they will explore it, especially if it’s a hidden battle. Influencing governmental dietary guidelines. Lobbying to make it a criminal act to film inside farms. Misinformation campaigns about vegan alternatives. You name it, the meat and dairy industries have probably tried it.

A recent example: the dairy industry successfully lobbied the FDA to ban soy, almond, coconut, and oat milk companies from calling themselves “milk” because they claim people will get confused by it. (Even though the phrase “coconut milk” has been used for centuries.) The dairy industry doesn’t actually believe people will be confused by the terms “soy milk” and “almond milk.” Rather, the dairy industry wants to hurt the non-dairy milk industry because so many people have stopped buying their product. The dairy industry has the benefit of having biased people who work at the FDA who will pass regulations that help them. 

The dairy industry has also been busy conducting disinformation campaigns to disparage non-dairy milks for containing ‘weird’ ingredients (as if cow’s milk, a.k.a coagulated, hormone-filled bovine breast secretion, isn’t itself a weird ingredient.)

The meat and dairy industries also do a lot of secret, covert propaganda as well–stuff that isn’t subject to government transparency like the FDA rule change.

Before you group me in with your whacky aunt and accuse me of being a tin-foil conspiracy theorist–I should clarify–this practice has already been revealed in similar contexts.  Leaked emails from an egg industry trade group revealed a plan to pay popular food bloggers to publish pro-egg content.81 Why? The egg industry is threatened by vegan egg replacement companies. So the egg industry trade group does what it can to preempt the rise of vegan alternatives. Is it that far-fetched to think the meat, dairy, and egg industries are paying some of them to make anti-soy videos and articles? Soy is one of the main ingredients in vegan meat replacements. That makes it a direct threat to the meat industry. Would it be surprising to find out that fitness bloggers are converting their hundreds of thousands of followers into a small payday by making anti-soy content? Think about how many young men are influenced by fitness bloggers. Of course, some fitness bloggers could also genuinely believe anti-soy stuff, just like whacky aunts. We only know about the egg industry’s efforts because someone leaked internal industry emails.

I strongly suspect that promoting anti-soy articles and videos is part of the meat and dairy industry plan. “Hey fitness blogger with 100,000 followers on Instagram. Want a quick $2,000? Just sign this non-disclosure agreement and post a video that soy causes manboobs. Link to this case report of a 60-year-old dude who had manboobs.” That’s essentially what the egg industry was found to be doing.

I could go on with this topic, but I need to stop this post somewhere.

These blog posts are the result of countless hours of reading about manboobs and soy. I’m not sure I’m proud of it, but it needed to be done. My last piece of parting wisdom: you should really try this bbq tofu recipe.

The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

Footnotes82

  1. https://www.usda.gov/sites/default/files/documents/coexistence-soybeans-factsheet.pdf
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18922017
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11467202
  4. https://www.nature.com/articles/jes20139
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK221713/
  6. Phthalate Study 2
  7. Environmental Health 2012
  8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17361063
  9. Environmental Health 2012
  10. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15319301
  11. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5076740/
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