Many people include soy in their diet as a source of quality protein. This appears to be a great choice as well, considering the health benefits it offers. Majority of Americans rated it as “healthy” in surveys by the United Soybean Board – about 85 percent in 2008.
But it appears soy may not be as healthy a choice for men as it is for women. There are reports of certain undesirable changes in males from its consumption. What are these and are there steps you can take to guide against them?
Soy and Its Properties
Soy is a product of the soybean plant. Like other types of beans, the legume comes in a pod. You can find the bean in different colors, including brown, black or green. It is most popular as an ingredient in soy milk, which, technically, is not really milk. Tofu, miso, tempeh, and natto are some of the other food products that feature it.
This is a favorite for people who are on strictly plant-based diets – vegans and vegetarians. It provides such people with a rich source of protein and other nutrients. Soy milk also offers great alternative for individuals who are intolerant to lactose present in cow’s milk.
Soy is high in isoflavones, which are the secret to majority of its health benefits. The most notable of these substances are genistein and daidzein. These are phytoestrogens, or estrogens of plant origin. They produce similar effects as the naturally occurring estrogen in humans. This is why some think soy based foods may not be safe for men.
What Benefits Does Soy Offer?
Let’s talk a bit about why many people regard soy foods as healthful choices before moving further. It is well known that the legume is a rich source of high quality protein. In addition, you can get other nutrients, such as selenium, magnesium and manganese from it. Some manufacturers do fortify foods from soybeans with calcium as well to raise the levels.
The health benefits of soy aren’t just about the nutrients it contains. Amounts of substances that are likely to harm your health are on the low side. It has low calories, cholesterol and saturated fat.
Researchers have observed that soy food products may help to prolong your life, in good health. In addition to lowering cholesterol levels, it also helps to manage blood pressure. It then means that it could reduce your risk of heart disease and untimely death. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recognizes this heart benefit.
Soy reduces your risk of developing diabetes, according to research done at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center. It may protect against prostate cancer and kidney disease. You can also get help from it in fighting inflammation and its harmful effects.
Why Men May Need to Worry?
Going by the benefits from its consumption, soy bean may sound like a great health choice. It is very likely not clear from the foregoing how it can be an issue for men. Well, the estrogen-like effects that soy produces is the main source of worry.
Levels of estrogen, a female sex hormone, that are higher than normal in men may lead to unpleasant changes. This is because they can interfere with levels of male hormones. We discuss below the major effects that may result from consumption of soy food products.
Estrogen – in optimal amount – is a crucial hormone for breast development. This makes it less important in males. But you may experience its effects to a considerable if you regularly consume soy. You will recall that it contains isoflavones that produce effects similar to estrogen.
There are reports of men developing large or unusual breasts, more popularly referred to as “man boobs,” or Gynecomastia as a result of maintaining a diet including soy. These can show up like those of a teenage girl and can, of course, be embarrassing for a man. The medical name for this type of condition is gynecomastia. It may come with pain.
Among the effects of higher levels of estrogen are erection problems. Isoflavones in soy foods can make your penis flaccid. It becomes difficult to get it up whenever you perceive what ought to be a sexual stimulus. You may find that you no longer have morning erections as you used to. These changes are not unconnected to the effect phytoestrogens have on testosterone levels.
Research published in the Journal of Andrology showed that male rats given daidzein had softer erections. Resulting biochemical changes made tissues in their penis less elastic and less capable of holding blood for hard erection. There was also reduced production of testosterone, although not significantly so.
It has also been observed in research that cases of erectile dysfunction are higher among Chinese men, compared to their American counterparts. The former consume more soy foods in their diets and this may be a factor.
Lower sperm counts
High estrogen levels are harmful to sperm production. Observations by researchers suggest that the more soy you consume, the lower your sperm count becomes.
This relationship was shown in a cross sectional Harvard University study that appeared in Human Reproduction. The researchers evaluated the effects of soy based foods on sperm production in 99 men. They observed 32 percent reduction in sperm counts among subjects who consumed the highest amount of the foods daily.
Evidence suggests that men having normal or high sperm counts are more likely to feel the difference in production. Overweight and obesity increase the risk of soy leading to low sperm counts.
Behavioral or emotional changes
Soy based foods can disrupt your emotional balance. Certain behaviors that you hardly show can begin to appear. For example, movies that ordinarily wouldn’t bring tears to your eyes may cause that to happen. You just find yourself becoming embarrassingly emotional and sentimental.
A 15-month study by researchers at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center somewhat confirmed that behavioral changes are possible effects of soy in men. Adult male monkeys were used for the research. The researchers divided these animals into three group. A group was given about 125mg isoflavones from soy daily while the second got half. The final group obtained its protein from milk and animal sources.
Something comparable to mood swings was noticed in the male monkeys that received the higher amount of isoflavones. They were more aggressive and submissive in behavior than those in the other groups. They also spent more time alone – apart from the other monkeys.
Although this is only an animal study, mood swings and feminine behavior have been reported in men.
Mental health issues
It has been shown in research that phytoestrogens can boost your mental health. This makes it no less surprising then to learn that soy may contribute to memory issues and dementia in older individuals. A study at Loughborough University, England hinted at this.
Eef Hogervorst and her colleagues were expecting to prove benefits of tofu for older individuals, but came to a different conclusion. They found that people who were in their late 60s, or older, doubled their risk of memory impairment and dementia by consuming this soy based food, compared to those who ate it in moderate quantity.
Can Soy Make a Boy Feminine?
Some people who are aware of the estrogen-like compounds in soy have concerns that it may feminize a boy. One can agree this is a valid concern considering its inclusion in baby formulas. Estimates have it that as much as 35 percent of bottle-fed babies in the U.S. consume it.
There appears to be no research showing that soy can feminize a boy. Research at University of Pennsylvania published in the Journal of the American Medical Association showed that people fed with soy formulas as babies were not worse off in terms of fertility, hormonal balance and sexual health.
But the American Academy of Pediatrics emphasizes that cow-milk formulas should be the first choice for babies. Soy formulas can be resorted to only when necessary, such as in the case of lactose intolerance. There is stronger stance against the latter in countries such as New Zealand, France and Israel.
Is It Better for Men to Avoid Soy Entirely?
It may seem that soy food products do men more harm than good – some will argue that way. But your health stands to benefit from these. The benefits can, in fact, outweigh the concerns. You should consider staying away from the legume if only you are allergic to it or can produce interactions.
The problems discussed earlier have been observed to affect those who took high amounts of soy daily. In a certain case study, the affected man drank roughly 3 quarts of soy milk a day. Dr. Andrew Weil recommends two servings of soy based foods, such as tofu, soy milk or tempeh, daily . That will give you just about 40 mg of isoflavones. It is also known that diets offering up to 25 grams soy protein can help prevent heart disease.
There is the argument that your source of soy matters as well. Those holding this view recommend organic soy based foods, instead of the processed or purified variants. The latter offer lower amount of nutrients and cause tumors linked to estrogen to become bigger, they claim.
Soy and Growth Hormone
There is evidence that soy can improve growth hormone (GH) levels. Being rich in protein, soy is used by some people, including bodybuilders, as an alternative to milk or whey protein. The reason for this, in a way, is to improve GH amounts. You need this substance for growth, including muscle and bone growth, and several other important functions in the body.
Soy is rich in amino acids. Its scientific name, Glycine max, gives an idea of this to an extent. These substances are the building blocks of proteins. They are what make up growth hormone, which is a chain of peptides. It follows then that you may be able to boost levels by eating soy based foods.
This is yet another reason it might not be entirely a great idea to avoid soy totally. It gives you practically all the essential amino acids and more, including arginine, glycine, leucine and lysine. You just need to ensure you do not consume too much of it.
In a Dutch study, researchers examined the effects of soy protein on women aged 19 to 36. The subjects received it alone or with carbohydrates and fats or placebo. Those who got soy protein shake showed significant surge in growth hormone production after about three and half hours.
Soy is not exactly bad for men and boys as much as some people fear. It can actually be beneficial to your health. The important thing is to make sure you do not consume it in excessive amounts. You may need to work closely with your doctor in case you happen to be allergic to the legume.
- Can Soy Feminize a Boy? – Ask Dr. Weil (https://www.drweil.com/health-wellness/health-centers/children/can-soy-feminize-a-boy/)
Soy’s Negative Effects — Men’s Health (http://www.menshealth.com/nutrition/soys-negative-effects)
Is Soy Milk Bad for Men? | LIVESTRONG.COM (http://www.livestrong.com/article/518337-why-is-soy-milk-bad-for-men/)
The Negative Effects Of Soy Milk On Men (https://www.symptomfind.com/nutrition-supplements/effects-of-soy-milk-men/)
Is soy milk bad for men? What are the dangers of soy milk? (http://www.belmarrahealth.com/soy-milk-bad-men-dangers-soy-milk/)
Soya Protein Causes Growth Hormone Spike – Steroidal.com (https://www.steroidal.com/nutrition-supplements/soya-protein-causes-growth-hormone-spike/)