If you've heard about the phytoestrogen in soy products, you've probably wondered if soy is bad for men. For a while, it was perceived to be something that men should consume sparingly.
The fear was that the phytoestrogen in soy would result in unbalancing male hormones. But that fear has be assuaged as new science is performed and studied .
It turns out soy has several different health benefits that make it an excellent option for all genders. Soy milk seems like one of the most popular soy products, but tofu and soybeans are also great options, available everywhere now, if you prefer them. If you find that soy products aren't of a favorable flavor profile to you, there are supplements. The benefits of soy have become so widely touted; supplements are now widely available.
No, soy milk is not bad for men. It doesn’t change their hormones or give them feminine qualities. Although phytoestrogen may result in a temporary physical response that may mimic estrogen, further research is still needed.
What Is Soy?
Soy can seem like a bit of a mystery product. It shows up in so many products, but it doesn't have a definitive look or shape. When you try to imagine soy, you likely conjure an image of a product made from soy, not one of soy itself. And that makes sense, since there are so many different soy products out there.
Soy comes from soybeans, which are legumes high in protein and low in fat. The protein in soy comes from isoflavones which contain the phytoestrogens you may have about if you've investigated soy products. They are called "phytoestrogen" because they are compounds that are structurally similar to estrogen, a hormone your body produces, but the two substances aren't the same at all.
Soy milk is the most popular form of nondairy milk replacement, according to a study from the September 2016 issue of Journal of Food Science and Technology. It has monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats, which are good for heart health. The milk also has phytosterol, which is good for cholesterol. Since it's the first type of milk replacement that was mass-produced, the technique has been optimized for maximum nutritional retention.
Soy Milk and Males
Since phytoestrogen is a compound similar in structure to estrogen, a female hormone, there has been some concern about soy being bad for men. People often fear that eating soy products will cause a hormonal imbalance. Both males and females need to maintain the right hormonal balance for their gender. When your hormones become imbalanced, different health problems can ensue.
Testosterone is said to be the hormone that creates male characteristics, so if a male's testosterone levels aren't balanced, they may lose some of those characteristics. That's where the fear over soy milk and men comes from, the idea that the phytoestrogen will increase estrogen levels and decrease testosterone levels.
According to a review from the December 2014 issue of German Medical Science, the evidence for isoflavone as a hormonal replacement is lacking. They also found that male hormones are not impacted by phytoestrogen, relieving the primary concern about soy milk and men.
Is Soy Bad for Men?
So, is soy bad for men? The research from the review in the German Medical Science journal showed, male hormonal levels aren't impacted by soy. Moreover, soy milk for men doesn't have a feminizing effect. So, men are perfectly safe drinking soy milk. Still, it should be noted, when looking at large populations, a small percentage of the study's participants experienced transient and minor symptoms such as breast tenderness.
Investigation of these symptoms showed no difference in hormonal levels, but did lead scientists to conclude the possibility that, while being digested, soy milk can produce estrogenic responses. This won't change your overall health or hormonal levels, but may result in temporary reactions.
More to the point, these effects have the most significant impact on infants, children and adolescents. Since men do not fall into either of those populations, they aren't at a high risk of these temporary responses.
If you do notice that you're experiencing side effects typically associated with estrogen, pay attention to the duration of those effects in relation to your soy ingestion. Should they last a short period after consumption, it's likely from the temporary effects of phytoestrogen. However, if the effects are long-lasting, they may be a sign of a hormonal imbalance unrelated to soy's effects on males.
Negative Effects of Soy
It's essential to be aware of the adverse side effects of any food you're planning to consume regularly. Fortunately, soy has been found to be very safe. Beyond the temporary side effects experienced mainly by children, as noted by the German Medical Science review, there aren't any adverse soy effects on males.
Soy has been found to be an allergen for some, so all populations should watch out for symptoms of allergies when consuming soy. If you have a soy allergy, you'll have to avoid any product with soy in it. But the warnings of soy milk dangers for people without allergies are based on unsubstantiated claims.
Don't believe all of the hype. Soy is much more than just isoflavones, which science shows us are nothing to worry about; soy contains nine amino acids. It's a high-quality complete protein full of fiber, B vitamins, potassium and magnesium. That said, you need to watch out for added sugars and highly processed soy products, which, unlike soy milk, have lost most nutritional value from over-processing.
Benefits of Soy
Now that you know that soy is not bad for men, it's time to hear about all of the different health benefits that soy provides. The reality is that soy is a health food product, because research has found several benefits available through the consumption of soy.
Soy helps prevent cardiovascular disease, according to a study from the November 2017 issue of Phytotherapy Research. The antioxidants in soy milk have been associated with a reduction in the hot flashes caused by menopause. This study also noted that certain types of cancer — particularly breast cancer — were ameliorated as well. Other studies exist, though, that refute this particular claim. So, further research is still needed.
Eating 25 grams of isoflavones soy a day can lower cholesterol, according to a January 2016 report from the University of California-Davis Department of Nutrition. And eating 50 grams a day may help prevent illnesses like heart disease and diabetes. Soy's an anti-inflammatory, noted in a study from the February 2016 issue of Nutrients. In addition, McGill University named soy milk the best nondairy milk alternative.
So, remember that soy for men is actually quite healthy; there are several benefits, and very few soy milk dangers. As long as they don't have an allergy, there aren't any adverse soy effect on males. So don't buy the hype that soy is bad for men. It can do a lot for your health, at low cost, with no lactose or other dairy issues. It's a healthier alternative to milk, not a hormone treatment.
- University California, Davis: “Nutrition and Health Info Sheet: Soy”
- Journal of Food Science and Technology: “Plant-Based Milk Alternatives an Emerging Segment of Functional Beverages: A Review”
- Phytotherapy Research: “Comprehensive Evaluation of the Role of Soy and Isoflavone Supplementation in Humans and Animals Over the Past Two Decades”
- McGill University: “Nutritionally Speaking, Soy Milk Is Best Plant-Based Milk”
- German Medical Science: “Soy and Phytoestrogens: Possible Side Effects”
- Nutrients: “Isoflavones: Anti-Inflammatory Benefit and Possible Caveats”
- Mayo Clinic: “Mayo Clinic Minute: Men and Testosterone”