When I became a vegan in early January, several friends warned me to be wary of soy products. My doctor, however, told me I had nothing to worry about. But more than a month later, I began feeling tired. On a particularly lethargic day, I happened to see my gynecologist, who told me to immediately stop eating soy, my main source of protein. She told me large amounts of soy would raise my estrogen to an unhealthy level.
That night, I began reading whatever I could on the subject in medical journals. I searched PubMed and found dozens of articles that found not just a correlation between the two, but a direct link.
Having written newspaper stories about the dangers of having abnormally high levels of estrogen, I knew what it could lead to: developing breast cancer. As it is, women in industrialized nations are at risk of getting breast cancer because they live in areas where their are high levels of pesticides, PCBs, PBDEs, DDT, the list goes on. These are all “endocrine disruptors” which mimic estrogen and cause all kinds of havoc on the body’s endocrine system. You can read more about them here.
I know I have my share of toxic chemicals stored in my body’s fat cells. How could I not? I grew up in Harlem during the ’70s when asbestos and lead paint was everywhere and flame-retardant materials were ubiquitous. (All of the aforementioned chemicals are dangerous substances that also mimic estrogen.) Not to mention that all that junk food I ate in my early years (Chef Boy-ar-Dee canned ravioli, Swanson frozen TV dinners, Twinkies, Coca-Cola) were/are packaged in plastics and metals that contain synthetic estrogen.
Then there’s our drinking water. The New York Times last year ran an investigative series last year called Toxic Waters, which examined the nation’s drinking water and found that a fifth of the nation’s water supply was in violation of the Safe Drinking Water Act. Among the many harmful chemicals are lots of endocrine disruptors. EPA administrator Lisa Jackson announced just two weeks ago that the federal agency is working on “a new vision for providing clean, safe drinking water.”And don’t think that bottled water is any better; many plastics leach carcinogenic compounds.
Anyway, I think I’m not being paranoid when I say I don’t need any more substances in my body tricking my endocrine system. This 2007 piece in the Utne Reader explains much of the problems associated with consuming soy.
Giving up soy meant I had to give up on being a vegan considering it was my main source of protein. )There’s only so many vegetables and nuts I can eat in a given day.) So I am back to my diet of eating meat in moderation, and trying to eat as much organic (pesticide and hormone free) food as possible.
Thank you, Rachel Carson, for warning us of the dangers of these chemicals. Those of us who know about it are listening. Sadly, most Americans aren’t aware because it’s in the U.S. agribusiness industry’s interest to keep Americans ignorant about what they are feeding us. It’s also true of the soy industry.
By the way, soy consumption is also bad for men. Check out the interview, below.