“Soy? Oh, that’s very healthy!” – Yes, that’s what most of us think when we hear about soy. For long, soy has been treated as a healthy alternative to meat and has been promoted as a health food. Made from soybean, it is mainly available in three forms – soy milk, soy protein, and soy fiber.
There was a time when soy protein was touted as a natural superfood. But, in recent times, it is again in the limelight for some of its scary side effects. Using it over a shorter span time, say for about six months, is known to be safe. However, using soy protein in high dosages for a longer period of time seems to be unsafe.
While the most common side effects of using this soy derivative are restricted to nausea, bloating, and constipation, there are also some others that can pose a cause for worry. Before you take a look at the side effects of soy protein, let us understand what actually causes these side effects.
Why Does Soy Protein Impact Us Negatively
Soy protein contains various toxins, including phytic acid, phytoestrogens, hemaglutinin, and trypsin inhibitors, which are the root cause of the perils. However, the side effects are just the possible negative impacts and can be avoided with a restricted usage.
Soy Protein Side Effects
1. Affects Fertility In Women
A study conducted in Brazil in 2009 proved that soy impacts the reproductive system in women. Therefore, it is essential to keep a check on your soy consumption when you find it difficult to become pregnant. The studies were conducted on female rats for 15 months under lab conditions. During this period, their feed consisted of genetically modified soy protein. And, the results were really shocking. These rats showcased an increased level of progesterone. The uterus and the menstrual cycles of these rats showed drastic changes.
If you extrapolate these studies to humans, you will find that women who use genetically modified soy protein are at a higher risk of developing retrograde menstruation. In such cases, the women will experience period cycle halts. This, in turn, causes endometriosis, which is one of the primary causes of infertility in women.
2. Causes Heavy Periods
Yet another study suggests that those who use genetically modified soy protein isolate can experience abnormally long menstruation, which is also on the heavier side flow-wise. This condition is medically termed as ‘Menorrhagia’.
[ Read: Soy Protein Chart ]
3. Causes Endocrine Disruption
Soy is full of certain ‘biologically active compounds’, such as genistein, glycitein, daidzein, etc. These are collectively called ‘isoflavones’. These phytochemicals are categorized as ‘estrogen disruptors’. They interfere with the normal functions of our endocrine system. Isoflavones can either boost or reduce the activities of natural estrogens by activating the receptors or preventing them from binding. As a result, we suffer from hormonal imbalance.
Genetically modified soy protein contains glyphosate. This element hampers the endocrine system of women. This, in turn, hinders the functioning of aromatase, the estrogen producer. Estrogen plays a major role in pregnancy, as a woman produces high levels of it during pregnancy. Lower levels of this hormone are known to be harmful to the fetus and the would-be mother.
4. Causes Loss Of Libido
The side effects of soy protein isolate are not restricted just to women. Men are also affected by it. Studies reveal that soy protein has been used by the celibate monks to keep their libido under control. Hence, it is advisable to read the ingredients of items like protein shakes and energy bars twice before consuming them if you want to perform in your bedroom.
Further, the two other components of soy protein, namely daidzein and genistein, are perfect imitators of estrogen. They cause erectile dysfunction in men. Men who use this protein are also known to experience mood swings, lower sperm count, gynecomastia, and even excess growth of body and facial hair.
5. High Risk Of Bladder Cancer
Studies have established that the risk of developing bladder cancer increases when soy protein is used in excess. The risk worsens if you have a genetic history of bladder cancer. In such cases, stay away from soy protein as well as soy-infused foods to protect yourself from this painful condition.
6. Kidney Issues
Soy and its variants are a natural source of aluminum. Excessive presence of this metal is known to be the primary cause of various renal diseases. The oxalates present in soy are known to cause kidney stones. It is difficult for our digestive system to process these oxalates. As a result, they accumulate within the kidneys. When the levels of these oxalates become dangerously high, they turn into stones.
If you have a history of renal failure or any other renal disorders, it is advisable that you stay away from soy protein.
7. Increased Chances Of Developing Breast Cancer
More than a few studies have shown that soy isoflavones can ‘proliferate’ or enhance the number of the ‘epithelial cells’ present in female breasts. In other words, the isoflavones present in soy disrupt the functionality of estrogen hormones, which eventually increases the risk of breast cancer by gradually turning the epithelial cells cancerous.
However, there are certain studies that contraindicate the above mentioned negative impact of soy. Whether soy affects breast cancer formation or not, it is always better to be on the safe side. Restrict the amount of soy protein in your diet. If you have a family history of breast cancer, then it is advisable to stay away from this protein until further research is conducted.
[ Read: Which Vegetables Are Rich In Proteins ]
8. Harmful For Pancreas
Soy protein contains trypsin inhibitors. Trypsin is the digestive enzyme that aids breaking down of the proteins in the small intestine. The pancreas secretes this enzyme in the form of trypsinogen. Studies suggest that the inhibitors hinder the functioning of this enzyme, damaging the pancreas in the process.
9. Obstructs Absorption Of Various Minerals
Soy contains a high level of phytic acid or phytates, which prevents our body from absorbing the essential minerals like iron, zinc, calcium, magnesium, and others. Due to the lack of these minerals, our internal system starts working abnormally and we experience vitamin D deficiency, anemia, fatigue, palpitations, fast breathing, rapid heart rate, etc.
[ Read: Soy Protein Benefits ]
10. Increases Chances Of Blood Clotting
There is a toxin named hemaglutinin present in soy. It clumps the RBCs or red blood corpuscles together and creates small to big blood clots within the bloodstream. This is extremely dangerous as it limits the normal flow of blood and obstructs the various functionalities of the body.
11. Leads To Hypothyroidism
If you have already been diagnosed with an under-active thyroid gland, the chances are high that you will end up developing hypothyroidism or other autoimmune thyroid diseases by increasing your soy intake. The phytoestrogens and goitrogens present in soy have a negative impact on the functioning of the thyroid gland.
As per published studies, the isoflavones present in soy milk are capable of depleting the levels of iodine and creating an acute iodine deficiency in our body. Without enough iodine, the thyroid gland can’t work properly and its secretion goes down. It leads to hypothyroidism, followed by weight gain, insomnia, several digestive issues, and mood swings.
12. Causes Gastrointestinal Discomfort
We all know that soy contains lots of proteins. But, you will be surprised to know that it also contains another compound that restricts the digestion of protein by blocking the enzymes required for this purpose. As a result, we experience symptoms like bloating, upset stomach, and constipation. Soy releases a mucus-like substance when it breaks down within our system. It forms a coating on the inner wall of the gastrointestinal tract, which generates lots of mucus and decelerates the process of digestion. All these eventually lead to acute stomach aches, irritable bowel syndrome, or diarrhea.
[ Read: Benefits And Uses Of Soy Protein ]
13. Endometrial Cancer
Many of us take concentrated soy isoflavone supplements to meet our daily requirement of protein. Prolonged use of such tablets can result in endometrial cancer. According to scientists, these supplements can promote abnormal growth of tissues in our uterus, causing ‘precancerous changes’ in the endometrial or uterus tissue lining. Pregnant women should always stay away from taking such supplements as these can harm their fetus too.
[ Read: Benefits Of Soybeans For Health ]
It is also proved that regular intake of soy can cause respiratory problems like asthma. Excessive consumption of soy can lead to increased levels of mucus in the body, which can ultimately cause problems like cold, cough, and asthma.
15. Other Side Effects Of Soy
Some other harmful side effects of soy are given below:
- Soy contains purines, which increases the risk as well as worsens the condition of gout.
- Excessive intake of soy can cause skin rashes, itching, and severe allergies.
- Soy hulls can lead to allergic rhinitis or hay fever.
Using soy protein in moderate amounts benefits your health, while excessive intake could leave you with mild and aggressive side effects. It is always advisable to consult your physician when you include soy protein regularly in your diet.
Hope this article helps you take a well-informed decision regarding soy and its derivatives. None of these side effects negate the good that soy offers. But it is important to be aware of what we eat and how it can affect us. Following a trend blindly is not healthy!
Have you tried using soy protein? Have you ever experienced the perils? Share your views and experiences with us right below in the comment section.
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Nilankeeta Roy Chowdhury
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