Everyone knows there’s some controversy surrounding soy and breast health. Is it good for you? Is it bad for you? Does anyone really know? We’re not here to issue an ultimatum (sorry!) but we have laid out the major schools of thought, based on popular research:
The Risks: The main protein in soy, isoflavone, can cause certain types of breast cancer to grow more quickly, but typically only in people who already have breast cancer.
The Benefits: There’s an association between eating soy and lower rates of estrogen-receptor-positive breast cancer in women living in Asia, possibly because people living in Asia eat up to 10 times more soy than people living in western countries. As a result of this research, some experts have been led to believe that eating high amounts of soy from a young age can protect against breast cancer.
Mixed Results: Some research has found that soy has different effects under different conditions, and researchers are looking into how soy affects people of different ethnicities.
The bottom line? Enjoy some soy! Its effect on breast cancer risk is neutral, if not small. Soy can and should be incorporated as part of a healthy, balanced diet, so long as it’s in the form of food, and not highly concentrated soy products or protein supplements.
Time to break out the edamame and start snacking!