- A health warning was sounded last night over the
dangers of eating soya after two senior American government scientists
revealed that chemicals in the product could increase the risk of
breast cancer in women, brain damage in men and abnormalities in
- The disclosure, which sent shockwaves through the
multi-billion dollar food industry, came after the scientists decided
to break ranks with colleagues in the US Food and Drug Administration
and oppose its decision last year to approve a health claim that soya
reduced the risk of heart disease. They wrote an internal protest
letter warning of 28 studies revealing toxic effects of soya.
- In an interview with The Observer, one of the
scientists, Daniel Doerge, an expert on soya, said: 'We have very real
worries that this health claim will be used by the industry as an
endorsement of much wider health benefits to soya beyond the heart.
Research has shown a clear link between soya and the potential for
adverse effects in humans.'
- BSE and other health scares related to meat have led
to rocketing sales of soya-related products in Britain. But it is not
just vegetarian foods such as tofu that use soya. It is a key
ingredient in products from meat sausages and fish fingers to salad
creams and breakfast cereals.
- The concerns of Doerge and fellow FDA researcher
Daniel Sheehan focus on chemicals in soya known as isoflavones which
have effects similar to the female hormone oestrogen.
- While these chemicals may help to prevent a range of
conditions including high cholesterol, they also lead to health
problems in animals including altering sexual development of foetuses
and causing thyroid disorders. Although soy is thought to protect
against breast cancer, some studies show that chemicals in soya may
increase the chances of breast cancer which uses oestrogen-type
hormones for growth.
- Their letter to the FDA seen by The Observer states:
'There is abundant evidence that some of the isoflavones found in soy
demonstrate toxicity in oestrogen sensitive tissues and in the
thyroid. Additionally, the adverse effects in humans occur in several
- 'During pregnancy in humans, isoflavones per se
could be a risk factor for abnormal brain and reproductive tract
- This will frighten mothers who increasingly use soya
milk for babies. Doerge said: 'They are exposing their children to
chemicals which we know have adverse effects in animals. It's like
doing a large uncontrolled and unmonitored experiment on
- The soya industry insists that most research shows
the health benefits of soya outweigh risks and that adverse effects
seen in animals do not apply to humans.
- Richard Barnes, European director of the US Soy Bean
Association, said: 'Millions of people around the world have been
eating soya for years and have shown no signs of abnormalities or
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