Doctor's Note

Legumes leading to a longer life? See my last video, Increased Lifespan From Beans.

No matter what genes we inherit, changes in diet can affect DNA expression at a genetic level. For examples see:

I’ve previously covered the available science in Breast Cancer Survival and Soy. Other effects detailed in:

It may be possible to overdo it, though (How Much Soy Is Too Much?).

For more context check out my blogs: Top 10 Most Popular Videos from 2013 and Can Eating Soy Prevent Breast Cancer?

If you haven't yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

  • Adrien

    Thanks to point out that study. It’s seem that soy benefit more to the woman than to the man. Is there other case of activating tumor suppressor genes in man by a specific food ? Other than flaxseed for the prostate, that I think you’ve covered before with Dean Ornish’s study. Or other example of switching on and off oncogenes by food ? It really seems to me that Genes are not our faith and that the most important things our parents can give to us is good or bad habits, not good or bad genes.

    • Plantstrongdoc M.D.

      Genes are not our fate! Our fate is a complex interaction between genes and the environment, and the latter you can control to a large extent – no doubt about that. Too much focus on genes.

  • Tobias Brown

    Are split peas (green or yellow) the same thing as the green frozen peas found at the grocery (where they can also be found in cans yet those always seem quite tasteless)?

    • Untoured

      Similar, but not the same. ‘Dry’ or ‘field’ peas are left in the field to mature completely and dry and then split thereafter, and are thus starchier than ‘fresh’ or ‘garden’ or ‘English-style’ peas (the English were the culinary innovators, in this case). Petite peas are even younger versions of fresh peas, which is why they are sweeter and more savory. The green or yellow distinction with split peas is just a matter of how the chlorophyll breaks down.

      • Tobias Brown

        In health benefit terms, are they on the same page?

        • Brandon Klinedinst

          They are quite similar in overall nutrient and pisumsaponin content.

  • Tobias Brown

    How does edamame fit into all this? When you say a cup of soybeans could this mean edamame? But generally is edamame a star compared to other foods in this category?

  • CONCERNED

    I AM CONCERNED ABOUT SOY DR ELIAZ THE DEVEOPER OF MODIFIED CITRUS PECTIN TAKES PATIENTS OFF SOY FOODS FOR BREAST CANCER. THEN,THE BOOK ISOFLAVONES: CHEMISTRY, ANALYSIS, FUNCTION AND EFFECT EDITED BY VICTOR R. PREEDY 2013. YOU CAN READ MOST OF IT ON GOOGLE SCHOLAR. ISOFLAVONES AND HUMAN ESTROGEN RECEPTOR: WHEN PLANTS SYNTHESIZE MAMMALIAN HORMONE MIMETICS. PATRICIA DE CREMOUX AND YVES JACQUOT @ UNIV. PIERRE & MARIE CURIE

    THIS IS AN EDITED CHAPTER 11 SYNOPSIS THE 2 MOST ACTIVE GENISTEIN METABOLITES ARE EQUOL AND O-DMA AND THAT O-DMA PRODUCED BY 80% OF POPULATION AND EQUOL BY 30-40% OF THE POPULATION SUGGESTING INTER INDIVIDUAL DIFFERENCES. – IT IS GUT BACTERIA DEPENDENT.
    - GLUCURONID > 80% OF ELIMINATED FORM OR SULFATE CONJUGATED AGLYCONES ELIMINATED URINE AND BILE. HOWEVER, BACTERIA CAN CATALYZE DECONJUGATION LEADING TO RE-ABSORPTION THROUGH ENTEROHEPATIC RECYCLING. ACCORDINGLY, A SECOND PLASMA PEAK THAT CORRESPONDS TO RE-ABSORPTION IN BILE IS USUALLY OBSERVED. FINALLY, IT SHOULD BE NOTED THAT ISOFLAVONOID AGLYCONES DISTRIBUTE EASILY IN FAT TISSUE, SUGGESTING THAT RETENTION CAN OCCUR IN WOMAN WITH HIGH BODY MASS INDEX. THIS IS FROM CHAPTER 11. CHAPTER 10 BY AN ITALIAN GROUP STATED OK GENISTEIN PREMENOPAUSAL WHEN THERE IS MORE ESTROGEN BINDING TO ER-ALPHA IT PREFERS ER-BETA. POST MENOPAUSAL IT WILL OCCUPY ER-ALPHA. CHAPTER 9 IN THE SAME BOOK IS PRO SOY PROTEIN.
    I AM POST MENOPAUSAL SO NATURALLY I AM CONCERNED. IT COULD BE THAT JAPANESE ARE PROTECTED FROM OTHER DIETARY HABITS LIKE HIGH OMEGA 3 & LOW OMEGA 6 DIET ALONG WITH GREATER VEGETABLE INTAKE. I AM A RECENT CONVERT OF YOURS TO VEGAN. CAN YOU OR YOUR TEAM GIVE ME FEEDBACK?

    Reply

    • fiddlinmama

      WHY ARE YOU SCREAMING? You can read more information in the ‘sources cited’. The information presented in the video seemed pretty clear that soy was a benefit against cancer.

    • Toxins

      The capital text is extremely difficult to follow. Information on soy can be found here.
      http://nutritionfacts.org/topics/soy/

      • HappyPBD

        Agreed. Absolutely no need for all CAPS. Please follow appropriate posting etiquette.

      • ReluctantVegan

        She is perhaps typing from a Japanese keyboard with limited or cumbersome English letter and punctuation functions. Similar thing happened to me when I was typing English from a computer in Switzerland. I have “translated” it as a reply to her comment.

    • Kate Scott

      If what that book says about genistein preferently binding to different estrogen receptors pre versus post menopause is true, it is interesting. But have a look at the ref cited in the video by Nechuta et al because they looked at whether the protective effects of soy consumption on breast cancer survival differed by menopause status, and they didn’t – so that is reassuring.

    • ReluctantVegan

      Below is the lowercase translation of CONCERNED’s comment so we can all read it. Brackets, [..], indicate where I added or guessed at words for the sake of grammar and clarity.

      I am concerned about soy. Dr. Eliaz, the developer of modified citrus pectin, takes patients off soy foods for breast cancer. Then, the book “Isoflavones: Chemistry, Analysis, Function and Effect”, edited by Victor R. Preedy 2013. You can read most of it on Google Scholar. Isoflavones and Human Estrogen Receptor: When Plants Synthesize Mammalian Hormone Mimetics, Patricia deCremouq and Yves Jacquot @ Univ. Pierre & Marrie Curie.

      This is an edited Chapter 11 Synopsis: The 2 most active genistein metabolites are equol and O-DMA, and that O-DMA [is] produced by 80% of [the] population, and equol by 30-40% of the population, suggesting inter-individual differences. It is gut bacteria dependent.

      Glucuronid: > 80% of eliminated form, or sulfate conjugated aglycones, [is] eliminated [in] urine and bile. However, bacteria can catalyze deconjugation, leading to re-absorption through enterohepatic recycling. Accordingly, a second plasma peak that corresponds to re-absorption in bile is usually observed. Finally, it should be noted that isoflavonoid aglycones distribute easily in fat tissue, suggesting that retention can occur in women with high body mass index. This is from Chapter 11.

      Chapter 10, by an Italian group, stated OK genistein [genistein is OK in?] premonopausal [women?] when there is more estrogen binding to ER-ALPHA, [as] it prefers ER-BETA. Post-menopausal, it will occupy ER-ALPHA. Chapter 9 in the same book is pro soy protein.

      I am post-menopausal, so naturally, I am concerned. It could be that Japanese are protected from other dietary habits like high omega 3 and low omega 6 diet, along with greater vegetable intake. I am a recent convert of yours to vegan. Can you or your team give me feedback?

  • healthygirl

    The problem, for me, is that the government has been able to put GMO’s in soy and finding soy without GMO’s (hard to believe labels) is too rare anymore.

    • Toxins

      Organic foods are non GMO, so if this is a concern for you, you can buy organic.

    • beccadoggie10

      I buy certified organic soy/tofu made by Eden Organic, which is doubly certified, yet not with the USDA for the reasons you mention. The owner of Eden Organic also does not trust the way the USDA Secretary has changed the organic regulations,which do not confer the the Rule of the Law. Hence, he founded the Non-GMO Project and the Non-GMO Project verifies if the food does not contain GMO’s.

      The second company I trust is MoriNu, which also is verified by the non-GMO Project and may have certified organic. The Non-GMO Project is committed to labeling food that has been verified. They demand regular testing. I have never been made ill from eating certified organic and non-GMO Project verified tofu or soy milk. But, I would not trust someone just peddling their soy without either the certified organic or non-GMO Project verification label.

      I also am concerned with the way both political parties are going along with this GMO deception! In order to be patented, “life” must be substantially different, and independent scientists around the world have done studies on Glyphosate/Roundup which show the consequences with GMO soy, GMO maize to lab animals, livestock, and humans. http://gmoevidence.com/

      I contribute money to support mandatory labeling and the right to know if GMO’s are in food. I’m contributing part of my food allowance to the Washington State ballot initiative Yes on 522, even though I cannot vote in Washington State.

    • Tami Dill Djernes

      I’ve been making my own soy milk with non-GMO soy beans. It’s simple, cheap, delicious, and there are no mystery ingredients.

  • lea

    I am a vegetarian and taking bio-identials? Is the only good Soy to eat Tempeh, spouted or fermented as all the others are too processed?
    Thank you for a reply !

  • vegan1

    Just read an article from Dr. David Brownstein, a holistic MD who specializes in the treatment of thyroid issues, who wrote, “most soy products cause a myriad of health issues, including thyroid problems, and deficiencies in many vitamins and minerals. Soy is one of the most potent trypsin inhibitors know to science. Animal studies have shown that trypsin inhibition results in illnesses of the pancreas as well as cancer. Non- fermented soy contains anti-thyroid agents and enzymes that block the absorption of many vitamins and minerals. Non fermented soy examples are:
    Soy milk
    Soy based meat substitutes
    Soybean oil
    Tofu
    Many types of spreads with soy in them
    Non-fermented soy leads to hypothyroidism as well as autoimmune thyroid problems such as Hashimoto’s disease and Grave’s disease. And it is nearly impossible to rectify thyroid problems in patients who continue to eat soy as a major protein source.
    Fermented soy can be eaten in small amounts without causing any thyroid problems or deficiencies and examples are;
    Miso
    Natto
    Tempeh
    Fermented soy sauce”
    My question is this, would the reason unfermented soy can
    be dangerous is due to it being a highly GMO crop meaning it can be sprayed with round up all through the growing cycle?

    • Toxins

      The issues presented are mostly with animal models and raw soy beans. Trypsin inhibitors are inactivated when cooked. More on soy can be found here. Its a very healthful food.
      http://nutritionfacts.org/topics/soy/

    • Robin

      I have had hypothyroidism for 24 years but have only been vegan for almost three of those years. While I do not rely heavily on soy, I do include it in my diet from time to time and it has made absolutely no difference in my thyroid levels and functioning. In fact I had my dose of thyroid medication lowered not too long ago as my TSH was too low and I was on too much thyroid med. Meaning my thyroid is working BETTER. I mostly consume tempeh as a source of soy but sometimes go through bouts of drinking soy milk as I can not overlook the health benefits that it offers. I rarely use processed vegan mayonnaise, vegan butters such as Earth balance with soy in it, or other commercial products with soy (and it’s interesting that there is a lot of soy found in animal based omnivore foods such as breads, crackers, tea, mayo, and in animal feed too). I make my own bread but do on occasion use Ezekiel which has soy in it. BTW I am also surgically post menopausal due to loss of ovaries seven years ago at a very young age for endometriosis. If anything, I believe the hormones in dairy and meat products made my endometriosis condition worse and I only wish I had stopped consuming them before losing important endocrine organs. I am not too worried about the soy I consume in comparison.

  • Catherine J Frompovich

    As one responder pointed out, GMO-soy needs to be considered. The inordinate amount of spraying with glyphosate in the growing of GMO-soy ought to be of concern, especially for breast cancer patients. Why? Well, glyphosate impairs cytochrome P450 pathways that help to form and breakdown molecules in cells [1], plus other pathological damage in the body.

    Furthermore, most commercial soy products are not organically grown and therefore are GMO-soy, which needs to be examined in the context of how glyphosate impacts the healing properties heretofore attributed to soy.

    [1] http://www.foodandwaterwatch.org/blogs/new-review-points-to-glyphosates-dangerous-health-effects/

  • Plantstrongdoc M.D.

    Are beans “The Fountain of Youth” ?

  • Linda S

    Interesting. I had previously read that soy’s phyto estrogens could TRIGGER a tumor, regrowth, or a current tumor to grow faster. As a vegetarian, it would be wonderful if I did not have to worry about that, as both my mom and my sister had breast cancer.

    • Toxins

      All human studies show just the opposite, higher survival after breast cancer diagnosis and prevention of breast cancer.
      http://nutritionfacts.org/topics/soy/

      • Louise

        My mother-in law was diagnosed with breast cancer and her oncologist told her not to eat any soy products because they mimic estrogen, which feeds tumors. Are the studies cited here in disagreement that soy products can produce estrogen?

        • HappyPBD

          I have a friend who is in remission now who was told the same things by her doctor. Where is this disconnect happening? Why are oncologists saying this to women battling breast cancer?

          • Toxins

            I think you will find Darryl’s comments here very helpful, as he sums it up very well.

            “There are (at least) two types of estrogen receptor, an alpha receptor responsible for both the feminizing effects of estrogen and promotion of breast and uterine cancers, and a beta receptor without feminizing effects that appears to suppress cancers of the breast, prostate and colon. Soy isoflavones in dietary amounts selectively activates the beta receptor (and hence one can eat soy without feminizing effects), but in a few animal studies, very high (non-dietary) doses of soy isoflavones can also activate alpha receptors. Another case of whole-plant food good, pill extract bad.”
            http://nutritionfacts.org/video/breast-cancer-survival-vegetable/#comment-1101982650

        • Toxins

          Soy isoflavones do not mimic xenoestrogens. It is a common myth that soy is harmful, as it does just the opposite. Please view the provided link, plenty of studies to share within the link.

  • Dan

    It would be nice to have evidence grades posted at the bottom of each study slide, according to the GRADE schema. For example, expert opinion would be regarded as level 5 evidence (editorials, commentaries, etc). Case reports, case series and poorly done cohort studies would be level 4 evidence. Unfortunately, most studies in nutrition are at level 4 or level 5. Randomized trials with surrogate outcomes that are not direct patient-important outcomes like survival get very low evidence grades. This way, we know what to ignore and what to accept.

    For the complete schema at Oxford see:

    http://www.cebm.net/?o=1025

    Note that level 5 evidence gives a Grade D recommendation; whereas level 4 evidence alone gives a Grade C recommendation.

    • HappyPBD

      I have never heard of this schema before. I think that would be a FANTASTIC idea, especially for everyday folks who are not scientists.

      • Dan

        It’s well known in the literature and most medical societies that make guidelines have moved or are moving to the GRADE system.

  • Kimberly

    So in your opinion, for the 5% of people who have defective BRCA genes, as opposed to functional genes that are just being turned off by lifestyle choices, does it make sense to go beyond just relying on a healthy lifestyle (healthy plant-based diet, exercise, etc.)? Does it ever make sense to resort to surgery, like Angelina Jolie did, for these rare people with defective BRCA genes? It certainly makes no sense to do that alone, and ignore healthy lifestyle changes, but is there a case to be made for these people doing both? Thanks.

    • Hanna

      Dr. Greger, someone, please answer these questions! They are very important to the small percentage of us in this situation! I would also add, for these questions, does the answer depend on whether you are BRCA1 faulty or 2? Thank you!

  • Amy

    As a BRCA1 mutation carrier, I want to say THANK YOU, Dr. Greger, for posting this! There’s so little information out there for us.

  • Vegan007

    I am confused about the intake of soy now. Can you expound on why some researchers would say that soy is bad and if that indeed is true? Something to do with suppressing certain vitamins vital to our immune system. Thanks

    • Toxins

      I think you will find Darryl’s comments here very helpful, as he sums it up very well.

      “There are (at least) two types of estrogen receptor, an alpha receptor responsible for both the feminizing effects of estrogen and promotion of breast and uterine cancers, and a beta receptor without feminizing effects that appears to suppress cancers of the breast, prostate and colon. Soy isoflavones in dietary amounts selectively activates the beta receptor (and hence one can eat soy without feminizing effects), but in a few animal studies, very high (non-dietary) doses of soy isoflavones can also activate alpha receptors. Another case of whole-plant food good, pill extract bad.”
      http://nutritionfacts.org/video/breast-cancer-survival-vegetable/#comment-1101982650

      Also, all antinutrients are eliminated with cooking so this is not a concern.

    • Joz Lee

      Soy bean was invented in Sweden in l961 for Industrial Purposes. It’s a man made bean… Nothing healthy in it. Do some research ‘brain’ by Russell Blaylock M.D. It causes Dementia/Alzhymers…… and people promote it as ‘health food’?

  • Kleuna

    I am now confused. I was told by my oncologist and internist to stay away from soy after I was diagnosed with breast cancer. My tumor was estrogen positive and I was told that soy mimics (or something to that affect) estrogen. It is very upsetting to have such contradictory information.

    • Toxins

      I think you will find Darryl’s comments here very helpful, as he sums it up very well.

      “There are (at least) two types of estrogen receptor, an alpha receptor responsible for both the feminizing effects of estrogen and promotion of breast and uterine cancers, and a beta receptor without feminizing effects that appears to suppress cancers of the breast, prostate and colon. Soy isoflavones in dietary amounts selectively activates the beta receptor (and hence one can eat soy without feminizing effects), but in a few animal studies, very high (non-dietary) doses of soy isoflavones can also activate alpha receptors. Another case of whole-plant food good, pill extract bad.”
      http://nutritionfacts.org/video/breast-cancer-survival-vegetable/#comment-1101982650

    • Joz Lee

      SOY TVP TOFU should not be consumed by humans. It was a bean invented in l961 in Sweden for Industirial purposes… not for eating. It’s the wrong bean and it does not matter if it’s GMO free or Organic.
      Too much estrogen of phytoestrogen which competes with estrogen causing too much estrogen and that necessitates more testosterone production in both men and women! WOW! so what is confusing? so what about health? It’s simple Kleuna: don’t be confused: HUMANS SHOULD NOT BE EATING SOY/TOFU/TVP….

      • Joz Lee

        P.S. research Glycine Soya vs Glycine Max

      • carter

        “Too much estrogen of phytoestrogen which competes with estrogen causing too much estrogen” your sentence is confusing..that’s what

        • Joz Lee

          too much ‘estrogen’ from phytoestrogen from soy… competes with our body’s production of estrogen…….. what’s so confusing?

          • carter

            your sentence

  • Tina

    We stopped all unfermented soy products 2 years ago, when my Mom, who had a mastectomy, all of a sudden grew enormous breasts. Three weeks after stopping all the growth was gone. How can you explain this? All products were non-GMO and organic.

    • babs

      Hi Tina. I had my mastectomy last year. One of my oncologist’s advises was “Do not eat soy and soy products!” Apparently, it is the isoflavones present in soy that accounted for your mom’s breast enlargement. Isoflavones or phytoestrogens have estrogen-like properties. Hope this will help you.
      http://www.livestrong.com/article/156002-what-are-the-dangers-of-soy-isoflavones/

      • Toxins

        As Dr. Greger points out, soy does not have estrogenic properties that apply significantly to humans. Perhaps in extremely large quantities then yes. All studies on soy and breast cancer show that soy helps prevent breast cancer.
        http://nutritionfacts.org/topics/soy/

  • Joz Lee

    Any time people who suffer from any disease show it’s suppression and / or dissapearance…. **as in ”SOy has also been shown to suprpress colon, pancrating, lung cancers;” see above: That is due to ” REMOVE THE CAUSE” and the body starts healing itself. That is not necessarily to soy consumption…. as now the body will start accumulating new ’cause’ and start creating new disease…..which will not be attributed to ‘healthy soy’ which it isn’t! Millions of people who suffer from all sorts of diseases…. stop SOY Tofu TVP and their symptoms go away almost within days…..

  • Shawn Leatherman

    So quick follow-up questions: was GMO vs organic soy addressed in any of these studies? Second, I see an easy confounding variable here in that that soy eaters are more likely to eat less processed meats while consuming more leafy greens, cruciferous veggies, and other legumes. It is my understanding that these would thereby increase methylation pathways, reduce oncogenesis and increase apoptosis. Thoughts?

  • B.M

    Hey Dr. Greger , does UHT soymilk have less nutrients?

  • Alejandra Hdez

    Thank you for this and other related videos to soy products. I was just wondering your opinion about this web page: http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2010/09/18/soy-can-damage-your-health.aspx

    There’s a lot of cognitive dissonance around soy that freaks me out.

    Thank you anyways.
    Love from a vegan.

  • Ali

    “No matter what genes we inherit, changes in diet can affect DNA expression at a genetic level.” I have the gene HLA B-27 and since last September I’ve had Axial SpondyloArthritis. I am a vegan, and have been for many years. Is there anything I can do to get rid of my disease? I would be most grateful for your help! Best regards, Ali

  • Twopennysworth

    How much soy is genetically modified?

  • Genghis Pesante

    Could you comment on isolated Soy, benefits and side effects?

  • Heather StClair

    I am convinced that my eating soy products to have good health actually GAVE me breast cancer. I was advised by my oncologist to stay away from it. There are many hidden aspects of soy that are bad for us that we never hear about. The article http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-mercola/soy-health_b_1822466.html

  • Chris Karsten

    This just in:

    “Soy Consumption May Promote Overexpression of Breast Cancer Genes in Some Women”

    http://www.mskcc.org/blog/soy-consumption-may-promote-overexpression-breast-genes-some-women

  • Liz

    I’m wondering if there have been any studies looking at the effect of plant-based diet on BRCA1 or 2 carriers Anyone know? My closest friend just had ovaries removed as a preventative step and anticipates being screened for multiple cancers 4 times per year for the rest of her life.

  • Vegan56

    Can you debunk this for me, please? I am a Vegan, and I’ve heard numerous times about Chinese women not consuming soy at the rate we do or the brands we do, etc. However, I am not sold on what worked in lab animals (cruel, for starters) as this article indicates. I see fewer studies indicating soy is problematic, but this article got my attention. Go!