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May 01, 2007

Worldwide Dairy Shortage Causes Supplement Companies to Turn to Even Cheaper Protein Sources – Buyer Beware.

Soybeans As the science behind the health-promoting effects of various milk components (most notably whey protein) continues to accumulate, various food manufacturers around the globe have become eager to include beneficial dairy components in their product offerings.  Always at the forefront of nutritional science, the Asian marketplace especially has seen demand for dairy-based “functional foods” skyrocket in the past few years.  (Not surprisingly, it seems that cultures which are not dominated by the pharmaceutically-driven model of disease treatment are usually more open to advances in nutritional science and the role of nutrition and disease.)

As basic economic theory dictates, this increase in demand on a global scale makes the supply of high-quality dairy ingredients a more precious and valuable commodity, and prices on the full spectrum of dairy components have begun to rise accordingly.

What Does The Global Economy Have To Do With My Protein Supplement?

Images2 Nutritional supplement companies in this country who produce dairy-based protein supplements have begun to feel the squeeze of increased raw material prices, and in an effort to maintain their huge profit margins, have employed a few more dirty tricks at the expense of you, the nutritional supplement consumer.

You may have already noticed that some major supplement companies have already begun to:
1) Use more of the relatively cheap whey protein concentrate in their formulas (as indicated by higher and higher cholesterol levels).
2) Raise prices on their protein supplements
3) Produce products using even cheaper (and potentially harmful) non-dairy protein sources like soy.

What’s Wrong With Soy?

To put it simply soy protein is an abysmal protein source for a protein supplement.  Not only does soy contain potentially harmful compounds (phytoestrogens, phytates, trypsin inhibitors) which are not eliminated in the production of soy protein powder, but the industrial production of soy protein powder actually CREATES additional toxic elements (lysinolanine, nitrosamines) not found in other soy products.

Despite billions of dollars worth of marketing propaganda to the contrary, soy protein – the “miracle food” that was supposed to end world hunger, and supply us with an inexpensive and almost limitless supply of protein, has largely failed to live up to even the most conservative expectations.  In fact, as the research on soy protein ingestion has progressed over the years, some VERY startling findings have shaken the faith of even the most fervent soy supporters. 

As we reported in our whey protein article, when a major food industry (in this case the soy industry) wants to sell you a product that they would otherwise dispose of (soy meal from soy oil production) be VERY suspect of that foods quality.  This warning is true for the cheaper whey protein concentrates (a residual element from cheese production) and is also true of soy protein powder. 

Soy Protein and Hormonal Havoc

We have already shown that soy contains powerful estrogen-like chemicals, the two most notable being genistein and daidzein which can have negative effects on hormone synthesis, tissue growth, thyroid function, brain function, fertility, immunity, and cardiac function to name a few.  In the past, these estrogen-like chemicals were thought (or perhaps hoped) to have anti-estrogen (and thus protective) effects on the tissues of the body, but as research progressed these compounds were shown to exhibit a decidedly ADDITIVE effect with estrogen, making both of these compounds synergistically toxic, instead of protective to cells.



Unfortunately, the marketing department of most supplement companies only keeps up with the research when it’s good for the bottom line, so when studies like these emerge you’ll almost never hear about them.

Did We Mention That Money Makes The World Go ‘Round?

Money So, why is soy protein so widely used in “health” products, and why has soy noticed a re-emergence in protein supplements?  The answer is simple – because it’s cheap.  As we’ve discussed previously (in our article on trans fats, and in our article on food additives in nutritional supplements) the production of soy OIL – the most common oil in this country – found in every deep fryer in every restaurant throughout the land – leaves behind MOUNTAINS of soy meal from which soy protein is produced. 

Even as a food for livestock, or as a food for starving populations in third world countries, soy protein never performed up to the optimistic expectations of the soy industry.  A person who expects soy protein to nourish his or her body when it cannot even produce healthy livestock or protect the severely malnourished populations of a third world country has clearly bought into the soy industry’s marketing hype hook line and sinker – It is clear that if you want to perform at your best you must hold yourself to a higher standard of evidence than the marketing propaganda of the food and nutritional supplement industries.

Soy Rises From the Dead

A decade ago, in the light of emerging research, those of us in the nutritional supplement industry began to see somewhat of a grass-roots uprising against soy.  As studies began to see the light of day indicating that soy could drastically lower testosterone levels, thyroid hormone, and reduce fertility, soy became anathema to some of the more discerning and health-conscious men and women who were exposed to the then cutting-edge research.

Bodybuilders especially – who are obviously looking to maximize their hormonal environment for muscle growth and fat loss, wouldn’t touch soy protein with a ten-foot barbell – and for good reason – not only did the scientific literature indicate that soy could cause a host of hormonal problems, but empirical observation indicated that athletes simply performed and recovered better with high quality proteins like whey protein isolate.  (Along the same lines, while whey protein isolate is absorbed easily, soy protein is notoriously difficult to digest – all of the soy-marketing hype in the world isn’t enough to divert your attention away from that unpleasant rumbling in your intestines that comes along with high intakes of soy protein).

It’s Ten Years Later – And Soy Is Still Bad

Clock But fast forward ten years and as the price of other proteins has increased, soy has begun to creep back into more and more protein supplements – even as the research continues to accumulate, implicating soy in an increasingly large number of metabolic disturbances.

As we’ve reported so often in the past, profit is king within the supplement industry, and most nutritional supplement companies will think nothing of producing the cheapest products that the market will allow – often at the expense of your health.  They obviously think that their customers are easy to fool, and that given enough time they’ll be able to sell any ingredient they wish to a whole new generation of unsuspecting consumers.

So, What Is Soy’s Place In The Diet?

Any rational inclusion of soyfoods in the diet would contain low to modest amounts of fermented soy products like miso, tempeh, or natto.  It is the fermentation method which deactivates many of the harmful “anti-nutrients” in soy while avoiding harmful compounds produced by the harsh alkaline treatment which soy protein isolate must undergo.  Fermented soyfoods will still contain the phytoestrogens, so even these foods should be minimized or eliminated completely by children (with their developing endocrine system) and pregnant women. 

As food for thought - it also may be the lactic acid bacteria produced in fermentation which is responsible for many of the health benefits attributed to soy (traditional Asian cultures always ate fermented soy products – not the processed soy protein isolate which is so common in this country).

In an interesting twist, much of the dairy usage which we previously mentioned is exploding in Asian countries is being used to produce fermented dairy products (super high-potency yogurts, kefir and the like).  Maybe these Asian cultures knew (and continue to practice) something that goes largely unrecognized here in the West.  Perhaps it’s the beneficial lactic acid bacteria of fermentation which offers the health benefits largely attributed to soy in traditional Asian cultures, and perhaps the soy itself would not offer the same benefits in an unfermented state.  With their increasing use of probiotic-rich fermented dairy, these cultures may be inadvertently continuing a centuries-old legacy of good health brought about by traditional food preparation practices like fermentation.

Either way, soy protein isolate – like so much else in the nutritional supplements industry is really the nutritional equivalent of a wolf in sheep’s clothing.  Largely because soy has been marketed as a panacea for decades, it often operates under the radar of our skepticism all the while undermining our health.  And be forewarned, you’ll find it in more and more protein supplements (including protein bars and drinks) as time goes on, especially if dairy proteins remain in high demand.

Whey_group_w_5 The fact is that no protein source in the supplement industry has been shown to be as beneficial to as many systems of the body and as free of side effects in men and women young and old, as whey protein isolate – And no whey isolate is as clean and pure as Integrated Supplements 100% Natural CFM® Whey Protein Isolate.


Keep it tuned here – After all, who knows what sort of tricks these protein hucksters will pull next?


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