I tried soy milk about 6 months ago and liked it, and recently I've been drinking about a cup a day in addition to fat-free milk. A friend told me that soy milk unbalances your hormones and that it can harm the female body. Is it safe for me to drink soy milk?
Although soy milk is a relatively new product in some parts of the world it has been consumed in many Asian cultures for thousands of years. Soy milk is a plant-based alternative to cow's milk that many people choose for health reasons. Soy milk contains phytoestrogens, a plant-based form of estrogen that mimics the effect of the hormone estrogen. For women estrogen is a hormone necessary for having babies, and is also involved with bone and heart health in women.
Phytoestrogens in soy foods are considered "anti-estrogens" which means they may block estrogen from reaching the receptors - therefore potentially protecting women from developing breast cancer. Studies found that pre-menopausal may benefit from eating soy foods as their natural estrogen levels are high.
There was some concern that soy products could cause problems for post-menopausal women. Some studies found that soy could become "pro-estrogen" in women with low levels of natural estrogen. The concentrated soy supplements may add estrogen to the body and therefore increase breast cancer risk in post-menopausal women.
Right now, there is no evidence that consuming phytoestrogens found in soy products will affect healthy women, or increase their risk of breast cancer. A recent study presented at the American Association for Cancer Research meeting, showed that eating soy foods such as soymilk and tofu did not increase the risk of cancer recurrence in over 18,000 breast cancer survivors. The lead researcher Xiao Shu, MD, PhD noted “our results indicate it may be beneficial for women to include soy food as part of a healthy diet, even if they have had breast cancer.”
Many women with breast cancer are told to avoid soy “just in case” there could be negative effects. However, the results of three major studies suggest that avoiding soy is unnecessary, and that soy may in fact have important health benefits.
Most health professionals agree that a healthy balanced diet that includes soy is certainly a good idea, along with plenty of whole grains and fruits/vegetables.