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Discover the Odd Truth Behind Isoflavones and Breast Cancer

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There has been a new study done on the connection between soy foods and breast cancer that I want you to know about right now. There has been a valid concern about soy having hormonal effects, but what is the latest you need to know? Let’s talk about the science.

Soy foods do contain things called phytoestrogens, or plant estrogens, which we have seen can sometimes correspond with negative outcomes in people (especially when it comes to synthetic varieties of estrogen), such as:

  • Higher rates of breast cancer
  • Higher rates of ovarian cancer

At the same time, we have seen that estrogen does good things as it concerns bone loss, cardiovascular health, brain aging, and more. This has created something of a dilemma as it concerned the role of soy. Especially as it concerns plant estrogens, we as a community had a hard time mapping out this equation and figuring out where it all fit in.

Estrogen Receptors

What we have learned is that there are different kinds of estrogen receptors, called alpha and beta receptors. In order to simplify this, what you need to know is that there is one version that we want to see active, and one that we would rather not see active.

Key Insight: The version that we want to see active is the version that helps grow good tissues in our bodies. The kind that can help in the growth of our bones, or collagen below the skin, or healthy brain cells, or the lining of our blood cells. That is where estrogen is good.

When estrogen is good, it helps:

  • Make skin healthier
  • Make bones healthier
  • Make brains healthier
  • Make blood vessels healthier

The bad response, the kind that we do not want to see, is the kind that instigates cell proliferation. This is where cell growth can occur in key areas, which can lead to what we want to avoid (otherwise known as higher rates of breast and ovarian cancer).

Bottom Line: This is definitely a simplification of the key concepts that come from estrogen in our diets, but it carries with it an important point. Researchers have always thought, “wouldn’t it be nice if we could have all of the good and none of the bad?” – of course it would be great, but how close are we to actually figuring that out? This is known as a SERM (selective estrogen response modifier).

SERM

A SERM is essentially the ideal when it comes to the estrogen in our bodies, helping the growth of healthy cells in our bones, brains, and more, and denying the cell proliferation in the areas where certain cancers may take root. Data has actually emerged suggesting that soy might actually act as more of a SERM (the good), rather than an estrogen (the bad).

How does a SERM work?

So, let’s go back into our thinking about receptors. A SERM would basically help activate the good receptors (within the confines of one simple molecule) and would block up the bad receptors – even in the presence of estrogen.

Bottom Line: Even if you had too much estrogen in your system, a SERM could theoretically block or inhibit the growth of cancer cells. At the same time, activating the receptors could help handle brain aging and bone mass. This has always been the ideal, and we are now at a point where the data could be making that ideal a reality.

Existing Research

To this point, the data has been strong that soy does not cause breast cancer (1). In fact, a lot of data has shown the opposite. As an example, some population studies have shown that those communities who consume the most soy have the lowest instances of breast, ovarian, and osteoporosis amongst themselves.

What we really did not know is what would happen with regards to soy and someone who already had breast cancer. To further differentiate this, though, we need to differentiate soy isolates from soy isoflavones.

There is what we know as “whole soy” and then there are soy products which have higher concentrations of what we know as soy isoflavones (which are phytoestrogen-like molecules). Furthermore, these isoflavones have been made available as individualized supplements – which means you can take it all by itself.

Bottom Line: What we did not know before is how these soy isoflavones might affect a woman who just had breast cancer, or who was undergoing treatment for breast cancer. This had also been a question based on research suggesting that soy could lower the risk for menopausal symptoms, at the same time (2). This is also something we did not know, and were hungry to learn more about.

The Breaking Research

A recent study (3) looked at a large group of women, thousands, who had active breast cancer and had varying levels of soy intake afterward. Ultimately, it answered the question about the recurrence and the risk therein.

Key Insight: Not considering the outliers, the core of the researched group revealed that when you compared the “high soy” group with the “low soy” group, there was a 20% reduced mortality rate when it came to the group which had enjoyed more soy isoflavones in their diet.

Amongst the women who were consuming some soy foods, on a regular basis, they not only had a lower recurrence rate, but a lower overall mortality rate – all it took was one and a half milligrams (or more) of soy. That might look like:

  • A serving of edamame (soy beans)
  • A serving, or two, of miso
  • A serving of natto
  • Soy milk
  • Soy proteins

Bottom Line: It really is not that hard to get more soy into your diet, and this amazing new research really showed that soy can play a productive role as a SERM – for preventing the overall mortality rate which can afflict those who have previously had breast cancer.

Soy Supplements

What we are left with is questions about the role of soy supplements in our lives. What we need to consider is this: there have been many past examples to where some part of our diet does a good thing but is then isolated and then fails to do that same good thing that we previously relied on it to do. So, barring strong evidence from the benefits of soy isolates, I would still avoid them until we learn more about them.

But what about soy and your thyroid?

Stay tuned – I’ve got a full paper on this for you coming soon!

Staying Up To Date On Your Well-Being

I wanted to share some of this amazing new research with you so that you can have the knowledge you need when it comes to doing right by your body.

Now that you have learned more about the role of soy in your diet, isn’t it about time you also learned about other parts of your body? Try taking the Thyroid Quiz (4) today, and learn a little bit more about one of the most crucial elements of your body right now.

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Dr. Alan Glen Christianson (Dr. C) is a Naturopathic Endocrinologist and the author of The NY Times bestselling Adrenal Reset Diet.

Dr. C’s gift for figuring out what really works has helped hundreds of thousands of people reverse thyroid disease, lose weight, cure diabetes, and regain energy. Learn more about the surprising story that started his quest.