Everybody knows that eating soy instead of red meat for protein is good for your health, right? The "lean green protein machine," that's how the Soy Foods Association of North America puts it.
"Soy protein is the only plant protein equivalent to animal protein with all nine essential amino acids in rations needed for muscle growth and recovery," the association says on its website.
It claims that "as part of a balanced diet, soy foods have a positive effect on women's health, concerning heart disease, weight loss, certain forms of cancer, osteoporosis and menopause symptoms." They say it can protect against breast cancer, and that for men, it can help "fuel your workout and help lower the risk of heart disease and prostate cancer without side effects."
Well, says the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), not so fast.
Today the FDA proposed revoking its approval of health claims that soy is beneficial in preventing heart disease because it says many studies since the claim was authorized in 1999 have been inconclusive. They don't say soy is bad for you, they just can's prove it's great.
“For the first time, we have considered it necessary to propose a rule to revoke a health claim because numerous studies published since the claim was authorized in 1999 have presented inconsistent findings on the relationship between soy protein and heart disease,” said Susan Mayne, Ph.D., director for the FDA Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition.
“While some evidence continues to suggest a relationship between soy protein and a reduced risk of heart disease, including evidence reviewed by the F.D.A. when the claim was authorized, the totality of currently available scientific evidence calls into question the certainty of this relationship,” Dr. Mayne said. “For example, some studies, published after the FDA authorized the health claim, show inconsistent findings concerning the ability of soy protein to lower heart-damaging low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol. Our review of that evidence has led us to conclude that the relationship between soy protein and heart disease does not meet the rigorous standard for an FDA-authorized health claim.”
Wow! That is going to bum a lot of people out -- all those folks who drink soy milk, eat soy burgers, make soy-based smoothies because they have been convinced that it was healthy for them. The soy industry is going to freak out, too, because lots of companies are making a ton of money based on this belief.
However, the FDA said it will consider allowing a "qualified health claim" where the benefits of soy are concerned, rather than the "definitive" claim it had previously authorized. Companies using a "qualified" claim must explain there is limited evidence linking soy with a reduction in heart disease.
Comments are being accepted now by the FDA for 75 days. I bet the bureaucrats there will have a lot of reading material over the holidays. Maybe somebody can bake them some soy-based Christmas cookies to help them through.