[conspire] (non-Linux, but CABAL-relevant:) A word from our kitchen

Edward Cherlin echerlin at gmail.com
Tue Jun 16 14:54:31 PDT 2009

As is so often the case with nutrition and health claims about
naturally occurring chemicals, the truth is more complex than is
commonly stated. Our ignorance is necessarily greater than our
knowledge on almost any subject, but we don't have to make it worse by
ignoring what we do know. Much of the evidence on health effects of
isoflavones is quite thin, and most of what is written about it is
ill-informed, makes unwarranted extrapolations, or is mere conjecture.

I do not claim to know that tofu is healthy for everybody, but I do
know that _most_ (not all) of the claims made against it are urban
legends. In some cases, isoflavones have been found to _increase_
thyroid function. In other words, YMMV.

Watch out for peanuts, anise, and fennel also.

On Mon, Jun 15, 2009 at 10:21 PM, Rick Moen <rick at linuxmafia.com> wrote:
> Quoting Edward Cherlin (echerlin at gmail.com):
> > You might want to read more about tofu, which is most definitely not
> > fermented, merely coagulated. I do not know whether you will decide
> > that it is unhealthful, but whichever choice you make, it should be
> > based on facts.
> >
> > http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tofu#Production
> Good to know.  I appreciate the correction.  (Deirdre said that, as well,
> but I thought I remembered otherwise, and clearly was mistaken.)
> A small amount of it in one's diet is probably fine (for most people,
> e.g., not those with thyroid deficiencies).  Commentators I've
> seem seem to say that soy _in general_ was never a staple in any
> traditional culture's diet:  It was just something added that wasn't
> difficult to produce or come by, and thus was cheap.  So, the toxins in
> unfermented tofu (e.g., the component that chemically emulates estrogen)
> were probably never a significant issue, as people weren't using it as a
> primary foodstuff.

Chinese, Korean, and Japanese Buddhist vegetarians have used tofu as a
primary protein source for well over a thousand years, perhaps 2000 in
the case of China, starting in the later Han dynasty. (I am an
example, having consumed soy heavily for more than 40 years now.) We
have essentially no usable information about tofu consumption levels
before the arrival of Buddhism in China.

Highly processed foods made from legumes, such as tofu, retain most of
their isoflavone content, with the exception of fermented miso, which
has increased levels.

Other dietary sources of isoflavones include chick pea (biochanin A),
alfalfa (formononetin and coumestrol), and peanut (genistein).

Studies using chemically pure isoflavones or plant materials with
known concentrations of these compounds have indicated both positive
and negative effects of isoflavones on disease progression and


Phytoestrogen in females

There are conflicting studies, and it is unclear if phytoestrogens
have any effect on the cause or prevention of cancer in
females.[22][23]. Epidemiological studies showed a protective effect
against breast cancer.[24] in vitro studies concluded that females
with current or past breast cancer should be aware of the risks of
potential tumor growth when taking soy products, as they can stimulate
the growth of estrogen receptor-positive cells in vitro. The potential
for tumor growth was found related only with small concentration of
genistein and protective effects were found with larger concentrations
of the same phytoestrogen.[25] A 2006 review article stated the
opinion that not enough information is available, and that even if
isoflavones have mechanisms to inhibit tumor growth, in vitro results
justify the need to evaluate, at cellular level, the impact of
isoflavones on breast tissue in females at high risk for breast
cancer.[26] The generally accepted position on this topic is that
phytoestrogens may be beneficial for healthy females and that females
with known breast cancer should be aware of potential risks and
consider avoiding consumption until more information is available.[19]



In some countries, phytoestrogenic plants have been used for centuries
in the treatment of menstrual and menopausal problems as well as for
fertility problems.[35] The plants most used have been those that have
later shown higher content of phytoestrogens i.e. Pueraria mirifica
[36], and its close relative, kudzu[37], Angelica,[38] fennel and


Chemicals shown to have estrogenic effects

    * Alkylphenol
    * atrazine (weedkiller)
    * 4-Methylbenzylidene camphor (4-MBC) (sunscreen lotions)
    * butylated hydroxyanisole / BHA (food preservative)
    * bisphenol A (monomer for polycarbonate plastic and epoxy resin;
antioxidant in plasticizers)
    * dichlorodiphenyldichloroethylene (one of the breakdown products of DDT)
    * dieldrin (insecticide)
    * DDT (insecticide)
    * endosulfan (insecticide)
    * erythrosine / FD&C Red No. 3
    * ethinylestradiol (combined oral contraceptive pill) (released
into the environment as a xenoestrogen)
    * heptachlor (insecticide)
    * lindane / hexachlorocyclohexane (insecticide)
    * metalloestrogens (a class of inorganic xenoestrogens)
    * methoxychlor (insecticide)
    * nonylphenol and derivatives (industrial surfactants; emulsifiers
for emulsion polymerization; laboratory detergents; pesticides)
    * polychlorinated biphenyls / PCBs (in electrical oils,
lubricants, adhesives, paints)
    * parabens (lotions)
    * phenosulfothiazine (a red dye)
    * phthalates (plasticizers)
          o DEHP (plasticizer for PVC)
    * Propyl gallate


Soy and the Thyroid
The Controversy Over Soy and Thyroid Health

By Mary Shomon, About.com

Updated: May 27, 2009
About.com Health's Disease and Condition content is reviewed by our
Medical Review Board

...Doerge and Sheehan have refined their concerns, and in the journal
Environmental Health Perspectives, suggested that for soy to cause
toxicity, there need to be several factors, including iodine
deficiency, defects of hormone synthesis, or additional goitrogens in
the diet. They also stated that: "Although safety testing of natural
products, including soy products, is not required, the possibility
that widely consumed soy products may cause harm in the human
population via either or both estrogenic and goitrogenic activities is
of concern. Rigorous, high-quality experimental and human research
into soy toxicity is the best way to address these concerns."

[This research does not appear to have been done.]


Isoflavones and thyroid

The hormones produced by the thyroid are needed for the growth. Soy
appears to have potential effects involving the thyroid gland.
Individuals with impaired thyroid function should discuss the intake
of isoflavones with their phycisian because isoflavones have been
observed to reduce absorption of thyroid medication. Studies have
shown that infants fed with soy formula have the same development as
infants fed with cow milk formula.

Studies showed that soyfoods, and their isoflavones, are associated
with a reduced risk of thyroid cancer. Some studies hint that
isoflavones may inhibit the function of the thyroid gland, though this
inhibition may only be significant in individuals who are deficient in
iodine. Therefore people who consume large amounts of soy or
isoflavones should make sure that their intake of iodine is adequate.

Other studies on healthy humans have found that soy and isoflavones
had no effect on thyroid hormone levels and actually increased levels
in some cases.

> I note that there _are_ fermented sub-varieties of tofu (e.g., the
> pickled variety), although the general run of the stuff turns out not to
> be so.
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