There has been a new phenomena stirring around the media, where new “research” has found that eating tofu, or other soy products, is correlated to lower levels of testosterone, and higher levels of estrogen. This belief led to the label, “soy boy”; a male who exemplifies feminine characteristics as a result of eating a lot of soy products. Soy has also been known to lower the sperm count in men; as biological “evidence” that correlates with the idea of being less “manly”.
This term was quickly picked up by local news outlets, modern media coverage, and even political parties. Many right-wing parties have used this term to describe liberals; using it as a tool to undermine and insult their members (Metro). Many You-tube content creators have even went as far as posting videos, advocating others to avoid eating soy products to avoid becoming less “manly”. One example is Youtuber “Elliott Hulse’s Strength Camp“, as he strongly discouraged his viewers from eating soy products in the video attached below. (Warning: profanity).
This new belief is a great example of how “food-isms” can quickly spiral into something absurd; as original scientific “discoveries” become new – somewhat correlated assumptions, that are essentially an exaggerated version of it.
Although estrogen is a female sex-hormone, soy contains only two isoflavones, genistein and daidzein, which mimics estrogen. The origin of this new discovery came from the concern over high consumption levels of the one isoflavone, genistein. According to Scientific American, an animal study from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, has shown that high levels of genistein (which contains hormone-disrupting properties) “alters reproduction and embryonic development” in women (Newbold, 2009). This research was done in response to soy-products’ huge increase in popularity in the U.S., as Americans have spent ” $300 million in 1992 to over $4 billion in 2008″ on soy products (Scientific American, 2009).
Although consuming high amounts of soy isn’t necessarily good for you, this trendy belief goes to show that not everything you hear in the media is entirely accurate. Following a diet that advocates for high consumption of soy may show correlation to disruption to the reproductive process of females, but there is no evidence stating that eating soy ever harms males. It is important for not only the public, but also media outlets to do their own research to ensure that the information that they’re spreading is true – to ultimately avoid misinformed advices that can lead blown-out of proportion fads like “soy boys”.
“Is There a Soy Milk–Estrogen Connection?” Healthline, Healthline Media, www.healthline.com/health/food-nutrition/is-there-a-soy-milk-estrogen-connection#1.
Konkel, Lindsey. “Could Eating Too Much Soy Be Bad for You?” Scientific American, 3 Nov. 2009, www.scientificamerican.com/article/soybean-fertility-hormone-isoflavones-genistein/.
Scott, Ellen. “Are You a Soy Boy?” Metro, 30 Oct. 2017, metro.co.uk/2017/10/28/what-is-a-soy-boy-7034424/.