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Waistline Slimming Food

A biological understanding of why soy may result in less abdominal fat.

October 15, 2009 |
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Acknowledgements

Image thanks to brownpau.

Transcript

You may remember this study from two years ago that had a really mysterious result. People fed the exact same diet, but just had the dairy protein replaced with soy and there was a significant drop in abdominal fat? Same calories, but instead of abdominal fat growing, it seemed to melt away. We’re finally understanding the biology behind this.
This year in the journal of nutritional biochemistry scientists found that soy helps prevent human fat cells from taking up fat in the first place. They put a layer of human fat cells in a petri dish and as the concentration of the soy isoflavone was increased, the fat accumulation within the fat cells dropped—and these are the kinds of blood levels we can get incorporating soy into our diet.
Here’s what it looked like under the microscope. These are the individual fat cells and the fat inside is stained red here for better contrast. So this is the control with no soy phytonutrients. Here’s what it looked like after adding a tiny bit of soy, 3 micrograms. then a little more more more and finally 50 micrograms, where fat uptake was almost completely blocked.
In fact these phytoestrogens are so amazing that the meat industry bragged this year in their trade journals that phytoestrogens have been found in animal products. Not a surprise, really, given that animals eat plants, but should the meat industry really be bragging? Let’s look at the numbers: Beef or chicken has about 4—veggie burgers have 4,000. Dairy milk has 6, but soy milk has 6000. No contest, really.
What about this, though? Reports last Summer linking tofu to dementia? And here’s the study plain as day: Tofu intake associated with worse memory. So what do you think?

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by veganmontreal.

To help out on the site please email volunteer@nutritionfacts.org

Dr. Michael Greger

Doctor's Note

Please feel free to post any ask-the-doctor type questions here in the comments section and I’d be happy to try to answer them. And check out the prequel, "Waistline Expanding Food." Also, there are 1,449 other subjectscovered in the rest of my videos--please feel free to explore them as well!

For some context, please check out my associated blog posts: Poultry Paunch: Meat & Weight Gain and Diet and Cellulite 

  • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/mgreger/ Michael Greger M.D.

    Please feel free to post any ask-the-doctor type questions here in the comments section and I’d be happy to try to answer them. And check out the prequel, “Waistline Expanding Food.” Also, there are 1,449 other subjects covered in the rest of my videos–please feel free to explore them as well!

  • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/MichelleDeCastro/ Michelle De Castro

    I want to know is it is better to drink soy milk or almond milk?

  • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/lisa21012/ Lisa21012

    I think the word estrogen scares my husband into thinking that soy would be a bad thing for him. I haven’t seen anything on the videos that specifically shows any correlations about how the phytoestrogens in soy impact men vs. women. Should we limit soy consumption at all? If so, is there a difference in that consumption level for men vs. women or for age?

    These videos have completely changed my way of life along with my family’s. I love that your presentations are all based on science. I really don’t know how to thank you enough.

    • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/jennifer-c/ Jennifer C.

      Soy isoflavones, or phytoestrogens, are not the same thing as the hormone estrogen. They have a similar chemical structure, and therefore may “mimic” estrogen in the body. This adaptability means that phytoestrogens can both work like estrogen or block estrogen’s effects.
      Your husband can rest assured that his masculinity will remain intact. A meta-analysis conducted last year (http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0015028209009662) found that no effects of soy protein or isoflavones on reproductive hormones in men.
      If your husband is worried about the feminizing effects of diet, though, he might find this video interesting: http://nutritionfacts.org/videos/chicken-consumption-and-the-feminization-of-male-genitalia/.

  • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/CycloUtenEtternavn/ Cyclo Uten Etternavn

    Hi Michael,

    What about Soy-Lecithin? It’s a quite popular supplement these days, with various health claims.
    What does the science say? Harmful, Harmless or Helpful?

    • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/alexandra-georgiadis/ Alexandra Georgiadis

      Lecithin is a general term used to describe a fatty substance found in plants and animals. It has commonly been used as an emulsifier in foods. There are some studies that suggest that soy-derived lecithin may lower cholesterol and triglycerides due to the way in which our gut flora metabolizes the lecithin (eg. phosphatidylcholine). There are also claims that it can be a benefial supplement for people who take niacin as a treatment for high cholesterol. Because niacin can deplete choline, higher intake of lecithin through supplementation can be useful. It’s important to note, though, that there are some animal-derived sources of lecithin (commonly eggs) and these lecithins probably will not yield the same possible benefits (and might even have opposite effects). If you decide to supplement your diet with lecithin, make sure it is plant derived. Until more conclusive studies are done, I would stick to eating healthy soy products to receive all of soy’s benefits (not only the isolated lecithin). Check out Dr. Greger’s video comparing different soy food sources: http://nutritionfacts.org/videos/tofu-vs-tempeh-2/ among many other videos on soy/soy products (if you do a “soy” search on NutritionFacts.org you’ll find a wealth of useful information). I hope this helps! -Alexandra

  • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/becochic/ becochic

    Is it necessarily a great thing that it stops it like that? I mean, our bodies store fat for a reason… Like when you are pregnant and store some fat so you can feed your baby after she is born. So how good is soy during pregnancy when you need high levels of estrogen (which soy apparently suppresses) and need to store some fat? I really am hoping you can answer this for me.

    • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/alexandra-georgiadis/ Alexandra Georgiadis

      You’re right that our bodies store fat for a reason (or a few reasons) such as insulating body organs and maintaining body temperature. Fat also plays a vital role in absorption of fat-soluble vitamins, and can be used as a source of energy. Also, like you said, our fat cells produce estrogen, and very low levels of estrogen may be one reason why women who are underweight may encounter infertility issues. All this being said, the video above does not suggest that soy will prevent all uptake of fat by the body, nor that soy will lead to women having too little fat to produce adequate amounts of estrogen. As long as you are eating enough calories for your energy needs, and if you are eating a variety of grains, legumes, nuts, frutis and vegetables your body should function properly, and you should have enough fat from those foods to meet your needs while pregnant and nursing. Excess fat-primarily abdominal fat-as well as excess estrogen, has been associated with many adverse health effects including breast and prostate cancer, cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Research that provides us with useful ways to maintain our body weight, and avoid excess abdominal fat can be very beneficial for our health. Rest assured your body will most likey not stop storing fat altogether if you replace dairy proteins with soy proteins as part of your whole-foods-plant-based diet! If you want to find out more about the benefial preventative effects of soy, you might really enjoy this important post by Dr. Greger.http://nutritionfacts.org/blog/2011/08/29/soy-and-breast-cancer-an-update/ I hope this helps! -Alexandra

  • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/yummy/ yummy

    I’m concerned about all the GMO info that I read about soy…should we be sure to look for organic or non-genetically modified soy products…I think many of the veggie burgers use genetically modified soy unless they are organic..or do the benefits outweigh the risks? Would you discuss the topic of genetically modified products on a future video…or maybe there is one already that I overlooked. Thanks….

  • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/chrysanthemum/ Chrysanthemum

    What does this mean in terms of choosing a soy milk based on the calories in the variety? I used to buy ‘light vanilla soy’ to make my teeccino latte’s but recently decided I prefer the richer taste of the ‘regular unsweetened soy’ milk. The caloric difference was 70 for the light vs 90 for the regular. So does this mean that even though the regular is higher in calories, the fact that it is soy milk should prevent the caloric difference from making an impact on my overall body fat?

  • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/lbdesign/ lbdesign

    My naturopath told me to stop consuming all soy, permanently, because they think it’s messing up my hormones. What advice would you give to a male 10-year-vegan in his 40s with abnormally high estradiol, abnormally low DHT and Androstenedione, but normal levels of other hormones (DHEA, Progesterone, Testosterone)? Could consuming or avoiding soy be part of the problem?
    Thanks in advance.

    • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/toxins/ Toxins

      This is a common myth perpetuated by misinformation. Soy does not effect hormones, in fact, phytoestrogens are basically neutral to your estrogen receptors. Xenoestrogens on the other hand, which are animal based estrogens from dairy, really change your hormonal balance. Hence why acne is typically a result of dairy consumption.

      Dr. Greger clears up this issue in many of his videos.
      http://nutritionfacts.org/videos/breast-cancer-survival-and-soy/
      http://nutritionfacts.org/videos/soy-breast-cancer-3/
      http://nutritionfacts.org/videos/soy-breast-cancer-survival/
      http://nutritionfacts.org/videos/dairy-sexual-precocity/

      • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/lbdesign/ lbdesign

        Thank you. I was trying to find specific videos or articles on this site related to soy and men. I’ll re-open the conversation with my doctor.

        • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/toxins/ Toxins

          This video specifically shows that milk raises estrogen and lowers testosterone in men as well as soy being neutral
          http://nutritionfacts.org/videos/dairy-sexual-precocity/

          • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/lbdesign/ lbdesign

            Good stuff, thank you. I should say to be fair, I was never advised to consume dairy. But are you aware of studies on dairy from other animals, like goat? Can we assume similar effects, or are cow dairy products particularly disruptive to our hormones?

        • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/toxins/ Toxins

          Nutritionally speaking, it is worse than cows milk. It has 7 grams of saturated fat per cup. This is a lot considering we should keep our intake as low as possible to avoid the risk for heart disease.
          http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/dairy-and-egg-products/94/2

          Furthermore, milk is used to grow a baby animal of that species. I do not see the logic in an adult human consuming the milk intended for a baby goat or any other animal. Milk is used to grow and that is what it does. It raises IGF-1 levels in the body which promote tumor growth and accelerate aging.
          http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12417786
          http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16168602

          Here is a study showing that similar estrogens found in cows milk are also present in goat milk
          http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22459818

          • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/lbdesign/ lbdesign

            Thank you.

    • http://www.facebook.com/thomas.peter.michael.schulz Tom Schulz

      My advice would be for you to man up and eat some meat.

      • Peppermint

        being “manly” is one of the root causes of some males preferring a “meat and potatoes” diet. This kind of pressure promotes an unthinking and “boxed-in” approach to diet. Sadly, limiting a man’s food choices has not been working out too well.

  • guest

    I’m trying to track down the article that contains the chart/info from the voice over during the first 30s of this video.

    The background shows the “Weight gain over 5 years in 21 966 meat-eating,
    fish-eating, vegetarian, and vegan men and women in EPIC-Oxford” article, but this study has nothing to do with switching soy milk for cow’s milk.

    Is this the study?

    “Effect of a Daily Supplement of Soy Protein on Body Composition and Insulin Secretion in Postmenopausal Women”
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2200634/

    thanks!

  • Veggirl

    Thank you for this great free site, it’s really made a huge impact on my diet and my level of knowledge of nutrition over the last 2 years. I went on a plant based diet two years ago and having the wealth of medical and scientific data to support that choice on the internet is great!

    • http://nutritionfacts.org/ Michael Greger M.D.

      So glad I can help!

      In health,
      Michael

  • hopeful

    Is it just soy beans or…um, soy chocolate yoghurt? :D

  • Ed Jordan

    soy lecithin? Good or bad…the bottle says good for your liver, heart, etc, but I don’t want estrogen, prostate cancer, gynocomastia
    which I have heard soy causes.