Can “Natural Hormones” Help You?

Disclaimer: Results are not guaranteed*** and may vary from person to person***.

Can Here I begin a three-part article on the so-called “natural hormones” that are present inside soy, one of the world’s most-consumed foods. The hormones are phytoestrogens, and may play a huge role in disease prevention.

The relatively low rates of heart disease, hip fractures, and breast cancer in Asians have been attributed to their diet. Specifically: the high levels of phytoestrogens in food. As a result, here in the United States, there’s been growing interest in phytoestrogens. That shows up in the dramatically escalating sales of soy products in the past 10 years. Plus, in the marketplace, more than 100 phytoestrogen supplements sit on shelves.

The biggest push in popularity likely came from the results of a 2003 study (“Women’s Health Initiative”) that raised concerns about risks of taking estrogen and progesterone treatment — also known as hormone replacement therapy.

As a safer alternative, phytoestrogens became popular because they are “natural” hormones and seem to have many health benefits. The claims include relieving menopausal symptoms, and lowering the risk of heart disease, osteoporosis, and cancer. This series will be a look at soy’s ability to protect your heart from risk factors such as cholesterol, high blood pressure, obesity, and diabetes.

RECOMMENDED: The Hidden Benefit of Soy

Phytoestrogens contain over 20 chemical substances found in hundreds of herbs, fruits and grains. The three major phytoestrogen classes are:

1. Isoflavones
— Chemical compounds: genistein, daidzein, glycitein,
— Food sources: soybeans, soy products, legumes, and chickpeas

2. Coumestans
— Chemical compounds: coumestrol
— Food sources: clover, alfalfa

3. Lignans
— Chemical compounds: enterolactone, enterodiol
— Food sources: flaxseed, cereal bran, alcohol (bourbon, beer) and legumes

Overall, my views on phytoestrogens tend to fall in line with those of the American Heart Association (AHA). It essentially views soy and isoflavones as exceedingly healthy for the heart when found in food. In a recent study, the AHA said that soy protein has favorable effects on LDL (“bad”) cholesterol compared to other forms of protein. There seems to be a benefit on heart health, though at the moment it remains minimal. But they do say that foods such as tofu, soy butter, soy nuts and some soy burgers should be beneficial to the heart and your overall health. This is due to their high content of polyunsaturated fats, fiber, vitamins and minerals, and their minimal saturated fat.

In part two, I’ll address the cholesterol link.