Soy Worth a Hill of Beans?

Soy Worth a Hill of Beans?
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Are soybeans better than other types of beans for heart disease prevention—or does the soy industry just have more money and clout to tout?

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For over a decade, soy foods have enjoyed the rare privilege of an FDA-approved food label health claim about soy’s ability to protect against heart disease. Now a billion-dollar industry, they have a lot of money to fund research touting the benefits of their bean. And although there is also a U.S. Dry Bean Council, representing all the other beans, I think you can get a sense, just by comparing their websites, who may have more money to spread around.

So though you may not soon see ads on TV with anyone exclaiming they are “gonzo for garbanzos,” there was a study out of Tulane recently that looked at the cholesterol-lowering power of non-soy legumes. There are all sorts of beans out there. Which did better to lower the #1 risk factor (LDL cholesterol) of our #1 killer (heart disease): soybeans or non-soybeans?

Soy consumption drops bad cholesterol, on average, about four points. Other beans—lentil, lima, navy, pinto, etc.—dropped bad cholesterol eight. Though it’s illegal for, say, a baked bean manufacturer to make health claims on their label, soy isn’t special in that regard. All  beans are beautiful—and in this case, beat out soy, two to one!

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video. This is transcript contributed by Bruce A. Hamilton.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

For over a decade, soy foods have enjoyed the rare privilege of an FDA-approved food label health claim about soy’s ability to protect against heart disease. Now a billion-dollar industry, they have a lot of money to fund research touting the benefits of their bean. And although there is also a U.S. Dry Bean Council, representing all the other beans, I think you can get a sense, just by comparing their websites, who may have more money to spread around.

So though you may not soon see ads on TV with anyone exclaiming they are “gonzo for garbanzos,” there was a study out of Tulane recently that looked at the cholesterol-lowering power of non-soy legumes. There are all sorts of beans out there. Which did better to lower the #1 risk factor (LDL cholesterol) of our #1 killer (heart disease): soybeans or non-soybeans?

Soy consumption drops bad cholesterol, on average, about four points. Other beans—lentil, lima, navy, pinto, etc.—dropped bad cholesterol eight. Though it’s illegal for, say, a baked bean manufacturer to make health claims on their label, soy isn’t special in that regard. All  beans are beautiful—and in this case, beat out soy, two to one!

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video. This is transcript contributed by Bruce A. Hamilton.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Doctor's Note

For more on the wonders of beans, see my videos Plant Protein PreferableFill in the Blank; and Beans, Beans, Good for Your Heart. And for choosing among the best varieties, The Healthiest Lentil and The Best Bean (though truly the best bean is the one you’ll eat the most of!). For other foods that help lower cholesterol, see Dried Apples Versus Cholesterol, and New Cholesterol Fighters. And for why one would want to lower cholesterol, see Heart Attacks and Cholesterol: Purely a Question of DietEliminating the #1 Cause of DeathCholesterol Gallstones; and How to Prevent Abdominal Aortic Aneurysms. Can cholesterol be too low? Find out in Can Cholesterol Be Too Low? 

And make sure to check out my blog post Beans and Gas: Clearing the Air! For more context, check out my associated blog posts: Stool Size and Breast Cancer Risk, and Why We Should Eat More Beans.

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

25 responses to “Soy Worth a Hill of Beans?

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  1. For more on the wonders of beans, see my videos Plant Protein Preferable, Fill in the Blank, and Beans, Beans, Good for Your Heart. And for choosing among the best varieties, The Healthiest Lentil and The Best Bean (though truly the best bean is the one you’ll eat the most of!). For other foods that help lower cholesterol see Dried Apples Versus Cholesterol and New Cholesterol Fighters. And for why one would want to lower cholesterol, see Heart Attacks and Cholesterol: Purely a Question of Diet, Eliminating the #1 Cause of Death, Cholesterol Gallstones, and How to Prevent Abdominal Aortic Aneurysms. Can cholesterol be too low? Find out in Can Cholesterol Be Too Low?. And feel free to browse the other thousand or so topics I cover, and leave any bean questions below (which reminds me—make sure to check out my blog post Beans and Gas: Clearing the Air!).




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  2. One of the current dietary trends recommended by some dietary gurus is to move towards a paleo diet.  It is suggested that paleo followers avoid legumes because they contain lectins which are anti-nutrients.   What’s the rational behind this?  Are lectins from your diet dangerous in any way? What’s the kernel of truth and what’s the exaggeration?  Is there a benefits vs risks balance to be considered?  Thanks for  your answer.  Cheers.




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    1. People often cite “antinutrients” in a plant based diet such as phytates found in oats that inhibit calcium absorption and tannins found in legumes that can inhibit amino acid synthesis and mineral absorption. What they never tell you is that if you cook legumes the tannins are eliminated and that if you cook oats the phytates are deactivated. So cook your beans and grains like most everyone does and there is no risk.

      Dr. Greger covers the paleo diet quite extensively here on his free ebook
      http://www.atkinsexposed.org/




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  3. the FDA and Monsanto appear to be one and same corporation, and Monsanto seems to own 95% of the Soy in the country with their GMO seeds…




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    1. Very true. Most of the GMO soy is processed into meal to feed factory-farmed animals and into soybean oil for processed foods. To minimize consumption of GMO soy, avoid factory-farmed animal products and processed foods containing soybean oil, and look for tofu and other soy products that are labeled organic or nonGMO.




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  4. I’ve seen claims about uncooked soybeans containing some anti-nutrients
    Is this true, and if it is, does the way you heat the beans matter? Will baking them without water eliminate the anti-nutrients too?

    Also, what about sprouted soybeans? is it safe to consume them raw?




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    1.  Soybeans are not special in this case, raw grains, raw potatoes and all raw beans contain antinutrients. Cooking deactivates these anti-nutrients which include lectins, phytic acid, trypsin and α-amylase inhibitors. I would advise eating all these foods i mentioned cooked.




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  5. Was in Iowa/Minnesota last summer. Very impressed by miles and miles of nothing by corn and soybeans. But I noted there are no weeds for miles and miles as well. Are our soybeans and food from soybeans contaminated with excessive use of herbicides? Pesticides? How would we know?




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    1. You are witnessing the one of the effects of GMO’s in our food supply. They generally fall into two categories. The first involves inserting a gene which allows the crops whether soy or corn to be immune to the effect of herbicides. This allows the industrial farmers to spray herbicide on the fields without killing the crops. The second involves the insertion of gene which actually produces a toxin that kills insects that consume the plant. This is used in corn and cotton. The best way to avoid the effects of GM foods is to buy organic or products that are labelled nonGMO. You can also look at the PLU (Price Look Up) Code… if it is a five digit code and starts with a 9 it is organic, an 8 means it is GMO and a four digit code means conventional or GMO since GMO’s are not required to be labelled such… California’s ballot initiative to require the labeling was narrowly defeated :(!!. It is very worrisome that very little human studies have been done on this technology. The animal studies suggest effects across many organ systems. It is very complicated area but if you want to learn more about the issue I recommend Jeffery Smith’s book, Genetic Roulette; a DVD by the same title or going to the website for the Institute for Responsible Technology see… http://www.responsibletechnology.org/. The website also has a NonGMO shopping guide for free download. As for me I recommend all my patients, friends and family to avoid GMO foods for many reasons.




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    1. It is always nice see reductionistic science provide an explanation for the cholesterol lowering effect of whole soy. However I’m willing to bet there is alot of other factors in beans that contribute to health. Lunasin being a peptide with many amino acids must exert its effect in the gastrointestinal tract as it would be digested down to1-3 amino acids before they are absorbed into the body. I often read or hear folks think that taking isolated substances are better than the whole product. I’m reminded of an example in Dr. Campbell’s book, Whole. An apple has about 10 mg of vitamin C but over 150 mg of vitamin C activity. The other caution I have is that many of the studies were done in vitro or use animal models. Have a healthy and successful 2015.




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      1. Thank you for a timely reply! While I know that whole soy has proved so beneficial as a cancer preventative and as a reducer of inflammation, I would point out that the patented version of lunasin, LunaRichX by Reliv International, passes through the stomach acids protected by a molecule that allows the Lunacin to absorb into the small intestine at a rate clinically determined to be 96-98%. I personally have had amazing results with this wonderful peptide with my arthritis (no more knee pain!), as have members of my family. I introduced these products to a friend with Parkinson’s disease 2 1/2 months ago. His condition has improved so drastically that he bought 1,000 shares of Reliv stock on Friday. There are over 60 clinical studies of Lunasin on pubmed.gov, all of them positive. I wish more people knew about this wonderful peptide!




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    1. Good question. Let’s look at the “sources cited” section and pull those studies. They are both meta-analyses so the time periods will all vary. From what I see, the 8 point drop in non-soy legumes used studies with a minimum duration of 3 weeks. For soy, I cannot tell from the abstract. Let me know if you are dying to know and I’ll look further.

      Thanks,
      Joseph




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  6. Hello Dr. Greger, I am going to try going vegan for 90 days. I promised myself to mainly stick to a variety of beans rather than soy based meat substitutes. That said how is Soyrizo? Overly processed? Or is there one you think is good?




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