by Marion Nestle

Currently browsing posts about: soy

May 9 2022

Industry-influenced commentary of the week: soy foods should not be considered ultra-processed

The commentary: Perspective: Soy-Based Meat and Dairy Alternatives, Despite Classification as Ultra-Processed Foods, Deliver High-Quality Nutrition on Par With Unprocessed or Minimally Processed Animal-Based Counterparts.  By Mark MessinaJohn L SievenpiperPatricia WilliamsonJessica KielJohn W Erdman, Jr.  Advances in Nutrition, nmac026, https://doi.org/10.1093/advances/nmac026

Purpose: “This perspective argues that none of the criticisms of UPFs [ultra-processed foods] apply to soy-based meat and dairy alternatives when compared with their animal-based counterparts, beef and cow milk, which are classified as unprocessed or minimally processed foods (group 1). Classifying soy-based meat and dairy alternatives as UPFs may hinder their public acceptance, which could detrimentally affect personal and planetary health. In conclusion, the NOVA classification system is simplistic and does not adequately evaluate the nutritional attributes of meat and dairy alternatives based on soy.

Conflicts of interest: the statement is so long that I will save it for the end.

Comment: This commentary is a critique of the NOVA classification system, which puts foods in four categories by level of processing:

  • Group 1: Unprocessed/minimally processed (fruit, vegetables, nuts, grains, meat, milk with no complicated additives)
  • Group 2: Processed culinary ingredients (oils, fats, butter, vinegars, sugar, and salt eaten with added to Group 1)
  • Group 3: Processed (mix of groups 1 and 2, chiefly for preservation)
  • Group 4: Ultra-processed (industrially produced, cannot be made in home kitchens, chemical additives)

By this time, literally hundreds of studies have linked frequent consumption of ultra-processed (“junk”) foods to weight gain and its associated chronic diseases—type 2 diabetes, heart disease, etc—as well as high risk for poor outcome from COVID-19.  One carefully controlled clinical trial has shown that ultra-processed diets induce people to unwittingly take in more calories (“you can’t eat just one.”).

Artificial meats and dairy products made with plant proteins clearly meet the definition of ultra-processed.   Are soy products in a different category from those made with pea protein, for example?  Should plant-based meats in general be exempt from being considered ultra-processed?

I don’t think we know yet whether these products are better for health and the environment.  The issues are complicated and we don’t yet have the research or experience.

These authors report conflicted ties—many such ties—to companies making soy products and other products that might be considered ultra-processed:

Author disclosures: MM is employed by the Soy Nutrition Institute Global, an organization that receives funding from the United Soybean Board and industry members who are involved in the manufacture and/or sale of soyfoods and/or soybean components. JLS has received research support from the Canadian Foundation for Innovation, Ontario Research Fund, Province of Ontario Ministry of Research and Innovation and Science, Canadian Institutes of health Research (CIHR), Diabetes Canada, PSI Foundation, Banting and Best Diabetes Centre (BBDC), American Society for Nutrition (ASN), INC International Nut and Dried Fruit Council Foundation, National Dried Fruit Trade Association, National Honey Board (the USDA honey “Checkoff” program), International Life Sciences Institute (ILSI), Pulse Canada, Quaker Oats Center of Excellence, The United Soybean Board (the USDA soy “Checkoff” program), The Tate and Lyle Nutritional Research Fund at the University of Toronto, The Glycemic Control and Cardiovascular Disease in Type 2 Diabetes Fund at the University of Toronto (a fund established by the Alberta Pulse Growers), and The Nutrition Trialists Fund at the University of Toronto (a fund established by an inaugural donation from the Calorie Control Council). He has received food donations to support randomized controlled trials from the Almond Board of California, California Walnut Commission, Peanut Institute, Barilla, Unilever/Upfield, Unico/Primo, Loblaw Companies, Quaker, Kellogg Canada, WhiteWave Foods/Danone, Nutrartis, and Dairy Farmers of Canada. He has received travel support, speaker fees, and/or honoraria from Diabetes Canada, Dairy Farmers of Canada, FoodMinds LLC, International Sweeteners Association, Nestlé, Pulse Canada, Canadian Society for Endocrinology and Metabolism (CSEM), GI Foundation, Abbott, General Mills, Biofortis, ASN, Northern Ontario School of Medicine, INC Nutrition Research and Education Foundation, European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), Comité Européen des Fabricants de Sucre (CEFS), Nutrition Communications, International Food Information Council (IFIC), Calorie Control Council, International Glutamate Technical Committee, and Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. He has or has had ad hoc consulting arrangements with Perkins Coie LLP, Tate & Lyle, Wirtschaftliche Vereinigung Zucker eV, Danone, and Inquis Clinical Research. He is a member of the European Fruit Juice Association Scientific Expert Panel and former member of the Soy Nutrition Institute (SNI) Scientific Advisory Committee. He is on the Clinical Practice Guidelines Expert Committees of Diabetes Canada, European Association for the study of Diabetes (EASD), Canadian Cardiovascular Society (CCS), and Obesity Canada/Canadian Association of Bariatric Physicians and Surgeons. He serves or has served as an unpaid scientific advisor for the Food, Nutrition, and Safety Program (FNSP) and the Technical Committee on Carbohydrates of ILSI North America. He is a member of the International Carbohydrate Quality Consortium (ICQC), Executive Board Member of the Diabetes and Nutrition Study Group (DNSG) of the EASD, and Director of the Toronto 3D Knowledge Synthesis and Clinical Trials foundation. His wife is an employee of AB InBev. PW is employed by Cargill, Inc, a global food company headquartered in Wayzata, MN. Cargill produces soy-based food and industrial products. JK is employed by Medifast Inc., a nutrition and weight-management company based in Baltimore, Maryland, that uses soy protein in many of its products. JWE is a scientific advisory to the Soy Nutrition Institute Global.

May 17 2021

Industry-funded study of the week: Soy foods

I recently received an email from the Soyfoods Council: “If You’re Confused About Endocrine Disruptors, Here’s Why Soy Isn’t One.”

The email explained that “the Soyfoods Council is a non-profit organization, created and funded by Iowa soybean farmers, providing a complete resource to increase awareness of soyfoods, educate and inform media, healthcare professionals, consumers and the retail and foodservice markets about the many benefits of soyfoods.  Iowa is the country’s number one grower of soybeans and is the Soyfoods Capital of the world.”

The email referred to a just-published paper

The Study: Neither soyfoods nor isoflavones warrant classification as endocrine disruptors: a technical review of the observational and clinical data, by Mark Messina,Sonia Blanco Mejia,Aedin Cassidy,Alison Duncan,Mindy Kurzer,Chisato Nagato, et al.  Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, published online: 27 Mar 2021.

Conclusion: After extensive [my emphasis] review, the evidence does not support classifying isoflavones as endocrine disruptors.

Funding: “Funds were provided by the Soy Nutrition Institute and the European Plant-based Food Association to MM and the Toronto 3D Knowledge Synthesis & Clinical Trials Foundation for work related to the development and writing of this paper.”

Disclosures: Mark John Messina receives funding from the Soy Nutrition Institute as its Executive Director. Both Mindy Kurzer and John Sievenpiper are on the advisory board of the Soy Nutrition Institute. Ian Rowland is on the advisory board of the European Plant-based Foods Association. I have disclosed those interests fully to Taylor & Francis, and have in place an approved plan for managing any potential conflicts arising from these positions.

Comment: “Extensive” is an understatement; the paper has 688 references.  This may be overkill, but its purpose is to put to rest any concerns that soybeans might act as endocrine disrupters and, therefore, should be avoided.  The Soy Foods Council, obviously, wants you to stop worrying about this and paid for this review for that purpose.

I’m not particularly worried about soybeans.  As I wrote in What to Eat, I view soy as neither poison nor panacea.  But there is plenty of evidence on both sides.  That’s why paid reviews are not helpful.

Dec 21 2018

Weekend reading: Soy Milk

Jia-Chen Fu.  The Other Milk: Reinventing Soy in Republican China.  University of Washington Press, 2019.

Image result for The Other Milk: Reinventing Soy in Republican China

Here’s my blurb for this one:

The Other Milk tells a fascinating story—how nutrition science transformed the place of soybeans in the Chinese diet from humble components of traditional cuisine to instruments of physical and social development, only to be replaced by dairy foods as markers of modernity.  This book is a superb example of how cultural history, cuisine, science, and globalization intersect around one food–soybeans.

Here is a small taste: Fu, an assistant professor of Chinese at Emory University, explains that the use of soybeans in Chinese cuisine dates back to 500 B.C. or so, but she begins her analysis in the early 1900s with an account of Li Shizeng’s promotion of soy milk—in Paris, of all places.

Li’s soybean experiment in Paris proved short-lived, but his insistence that soybeans offered a key to a modern, industrial China did not fail to impress his compatriots.  Popular accounts celebrated the soybean’s many industrial and gastronomic uses and as late as 1920, highlighted Li’s foresight and ingenuity in promoting an indigenous product, doujiang (soybean milk), as both more nutritious and sanitary than cow’s milk, on the world stage.

If the soybean could signify modern, industrial development, could it also challenge perceptions of Chinese physical and nutritional precarity, of China as “the sick man of Asia”? When coupled with a newly emergent discursive concept of the Chinese diet as a thing scientists and social scientists could measure and adjust, the aspiration grew for soybeans to change not just Chinese history but Chinese bodies.

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Jul 12 2017

The fight over non-milk “milk”: the dairy industry plus FDA vs. soy producers and USDA

All those non-milk “milks’ in the dairy section—soy, almond, cashew, hazelnut, pumpkin seed, flax, hemp, coconut—make the dairy industry unhappy.  Milk says the FDA, is the “lacteal secretion” from cows.

Government agencies can’t agree; the USDA wants to help soybean farmers and favors selling soy milk as milk.

This dispute, obviously, is about marketing advantage.

Now Food Chemical News has a nifty investigative report on the fight between USDA and FDA over soymilk in the 2015 Dietary Guidelines.

The Good Food Institute filed a FOIA request and got 1500 pages of emails dating from 2011.

The USDA likes “soymilk:” everyone knows what it is.

The FDA prefers “fortified soy beverage” to indicate that the soy product does not have the same nutrient composition as cow’s milk.

This marketing dispute involves lawsuits, petitions, and more, according to the Associated Press account.

As I’ve written earlier, this is about market share.  Let them fight it out.

In the meantime, I don’t have any trouble telling which is which, and I’ll bet you don’t either.

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May 5 2008

Soy infant formulas: OK but nothing special?

The American Academy of Pediatrics has just issued an updated assessment of the benefits and risks of soy infant formulas. Its conclusion: soy formulas are fine for full-term infants and hardly ever cause problems but they also are hardly ever needed as a replacement for cow’s milk formulas. Never mind which is better. Breast feeding is still best of all.