TOFU:

SUPERFOOD OR MIRACLE MEDICINE?

BY DR. BRIAN K. BAILEY

Copyright 1994, 1997

What if I told you there is a natural food that offers the following health benefits?

There's more. It's inexpensive, readily available and easy to add to all of your favorite recipes. You'd probably want to rush out and buy a case of it. Right? What is this incredible product? It's tofu, made from soybeans. This little known product has been referred to as a 'superfood' or 'miracle medicine.'

Your are probably aware that the two greatest causes of death in America are heart disease and cancer. For years medical research has been looking for "the magic bullet" to prevent or cure these maladies. The pharmaceutical companies have developed several drugs that lower cholesterol. Unfortunately, in a number of these drug trials the overall death rate was unchanged or increased. Researchers in the United Kingdom and Finland reviewed these pharmaceutical studies and reported their results in the British Medical Journal. They concluded: 1) The death rate only increased in those trials using drugs to lower cholesterol. 2) Drug use should be halted except in severe cases until more research is done. 3) Dietary changes should be emphasized since they are safe and effective.

Scientific studies from all over the world reveals that tofu and other soy products help prevent heart disease, cancer and other ailments as well.

The Health Benefits of Soy Products--On February 20-23, 1994 in Mesa, Arizona, a number of research papers were presented at the First International Symposium on the Role of Soy in Preventing and Treating Chronic Disease. The presenters described the health benefits of soy. In this three-day conference doctors and respected researchers from around the world presented their work proving that soy helps to prevent disease. Although all the details are not yet known, we do know about many health promoting compounds. One of these is the isoflavone called genistein.

More than 200 studies have been published on genistein and many on its anti-cancer properties. Genistein works in much the same way as estrogen. It functions both as an estrogen agonist and antagonist; that is, it seems to promote the positive actions of estrogen while preventing many of its bad effects. It competitively binds to both estrogen receptors and progesterone receptors. These receptors are essential for tumor evolution and growth.

Kenneth Setchell of Children's Hospital Medical Center in Cincinnati, Ohio reports that dietary estrogens like genistein may play an important role in preventing hormone dependent diseases. He writes, "Recent studies of normally ovulating premenopausal women have shown that the dietary inclusion of soy protein (60g/day) specifically containing isoflavones leads to significant changes in the menstrual cycle, with the prolongation of cycle length, an increase in follicular phase length and a marked suppression of the mid cycle surge of gonadotrophins--luteinizing hormone and follicle-stimulating hormone." He added that these physiological effects would appear to decrease the risks of breast cancer.

Genistein seems to mimic Tamoxifen, the drug most commonly used to prevent recurrence of breast cancer. Genistein also resembles the drug Premarin in that it helps maintain trabecular bone decreasing the risk of osteoporosis. Studies reveal that soy products play an active role in the prevention of osteoporosis because they are a good source of the minerals boron and calcium. A 1988 study by the University of Texas Sciences Center showed that volunteers excreted 50% less calcium in their urine when they replaced the animal products in their diets with soy foods. Another way genistein acts like Premarin is in reducing the terrible side effects of menopause. According to a recent study in the respected British medical journal Lancet, eating tofu may reduce the frequency and severity of hot flashes.

A 1990 study at the Guy's Hospital in London found soy protein much easier on the kidneys than meat, which may be important for people with kidney disease.

Tofu Helps Fight Cancer--There are several compounds in soy products that help fight cancer. Genistein inhibits angiogenesis (the formation of new blood vessels) which is necessary for a rapidly growing tumor to feed itself. Saponins are naturally occurring compounds in soy beans, other legumes and some other foods. Saponins significantly reduced the growth and viability of cancerous colon cells and melanoma cells invitro, according to A. Venket Rao of the University of Toronto in Canada.

Another study of 8,000 Hawaiian men with Japanese ancestry published in Cancer Research in 1989 found that men who ate the most tofu had the lowest rates of prostate cancer, with other influences factored out. Similarly, a study in Singapore reported in the Lancet (1991) found that premenopausal females who rarely ate soy foods had twice the risk of breast cancer than those who ate soy foods frequently. All other food and lifestyle differences were taken into account. In both of these cases it was the soy alone which made the difference, not the amount of fat.

Cancer formation is actually a long process. The time span between tumor initiation and outright malignancy generally takes decades. There is a considerable time frame wherein the carcinogenic process could be halted or reversed through various chemopreventative strategies. We have already discussed many compounds in soy that inhibit or reverse cancer. Protease inhibitors are also potent anticarcinogens both in the body and in the test tube. A specific protease inhibitor derived from soybeans is Bowman-Birk inhibitor (BBI). BBI has been shown to suppress carcinogenesis; 1) in three different species; 2) several organ systems; 3) in different cell types; 4) different types of cancer; 5) by dietary inclusion as well as injection. Phytic acid and lignans are other compounds found in soy products that play a powerful role in cancer prevention.

The Role of Soy Protein in Reducing Heart Disease--Soy protein decreases LDL cholesterol and is effective in suppressing peroxidized LDL formation (this is the worst form of LDL cholesterol, a major contributor to atheroma formation).

Soy protein was also shown to consistently elevate plasma thyroxin concentrations in laboratory animals. Thyroxin is the primary hormone regulating metabolism. Increasing thyroxin will speed the metabolism, burn fat and decrease cholesterol. For those of you who are interested in having a fit, lean body, this is great news!

At the University of Milan's Center for the Study of Metabolic Diseases and Hyperlipidemia, Cesare Sirtori, M.D. studied the cholesterol lowering effects of adding soy protein to a low fat diet. One group of volunteers were fed soy protein while the control group remained on a low fat diet. Within two weeks, the serum cholesterol of the subjects eating soy foods dropped an average of 14%; in four weeks it dropped about 21%. The control subjects still on a low fat diet had no drop in cholesterol levels. Some of the soy eating group were asked to discontinue soy while maintaining their low fat diet. Their cholesterol levels crept back up to their previous levels in just two weeks. His conclusion was that soy alone was responsible for the decreased cholesterol levels.

To challenge the results of the first study, a group of volunteers was given a supplement of cholesterol (500mg/day) to see if that would negate the effects of soy. Despite the added cholesterol, these volunteers experienced the same drop in cholesterol as those who were given no cholesterol supplements.

More than 25 studies that have shown substituting soy for animals protein or simply adding soy protein to the diet significantly reduces cholesterol, regardless of the type of fat in the diet.

In the October 1993 American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, John Potter, M.D. reports that volunteers with only moderately high cholesterol levels (about 240mg./dl) experienced a 12% decrease in cholesterol levels in 4 weeks. This was accomplished by eating muffins made with 50mg. of soy protein each day. In a second trial the soy protein was cut in half to 25mg. per day and still the people with moderate to high cholesterol had a significant drop.

"The more soy people eat, the better, but even moderate amounts have an effect," says Potter. By moderate amounts he is referring to a couple of servings of soy foods each day such as a container of tofu in a stirfry and/or blender drink each day.

Protein: Tofu vs. Meat--Many people consider chicken a healthy protein source. I don't, three and one half ounces of white chicken meat contains 11 grams of fat and more than 3 of these are saturated fat. (It's also fraught with chemicals added to the chickens' food and has the potential to cause Salmonella poisoning). You can eat three times as much tofu, get as much quality protein (about 25 grams) with half the fat and 42 fewer calories. Also tofu has no cholesterol and its natural oils from soy are full of healthy essential fatty acids usually deficient in the Standard American Diet (SAD). An even better choice is now available called "Lite" tofu from Mori-Nu. It has only 35 calories in each 3 ounce serving and only 0.7 grams of fat. It's the only low fat tofu on the market.

Meats, including chicken have been implicated as the primary cause of heart disease. According to Dean Ornish, M.D. in his book Eat More Weigh Less, meat gives you a quadruple whammy.

 

Meat is:

 

In contrast, tofu and other forms of soy products give you more than a quadruple benefit.

 

Tofu:

 

How is Tofu Made?--Regular tofu is similar to cheese in its processing. While cheese is made from animal milk, tofu is made from soy milk. Soy milk is made from crushed soybeans and water. Tofu is then made by coagulating the soy milk with a salt such as calcium chloride or an acid like lemon juice. The soy protein is transformed into curds and whey. The liquid whey is removed and the curds are pressed into blocks of tofu. Similarly in the manufacture of cheese, the best proteins are discarded with the whey, leaving a poorer quality protein known as casein.

Fortunately, a new revolutionary process of tofu production, developed by Morinaga, coagulates fresh soy milk right in the box. This preserves the whey and produces a smooth "silken style" tofu. The aseptic packaging requires no refrigeration until opened. Preserving the whey may hold on to some essential health promoters normally lost in the standard tofu manufacture. The aseptic process increases nutrient retention and flavor while ensuring safety. According to the Institute of Food Technologists, aseptic packaging is the most significant food science innovation of the last half-century.

Tofu is "Recipe Friendly"--I used to put up with the old fashioned tofu because I was aware of its health benefits. It was a hassle to deal with, because the tofu was bathed in water. We had to change it every day and it often spilled. To make matters worse, it was high in fat, even though it was "good" fat. Over 50% of its calories came from fat.

I now only use "Lite" tofu in aseptic packages. My favorite way to add tofu to our diet is in blender drinks with fresh or frozen fruit. The great thing about tofu is that it will take on any flavor. You can marinate it and make shish-ka-bobs, make dips and pates or add it to anything you are cooking, from pasta to vegetable dishes.

 

1. Librato A. Santiogo, Midori Hiramatsi, Akitane Mori. Japanese soybean paste miso scavenges free radicals and inhibit lipid peroxidation. J Nur Sci Vitaminol 38:297-304, 1992.

2. MR Lovati, C Manzoni, A Corsini, A Granata, R Frattini, R Fumagalli, CR Sirtori. Low Density Lipoprotein Receptor Activity is Modulated by Soybean Globulins in Cell Structure. J Nutr 122: 1971-8; 1992.

3. Vucenick, I., VJ Tomazic, D. Fabian, AM Shamsuddin. Antitumor activity of phytic acid (inositol hexaphosphate) in murine transplanted and metastic fibrosarcoma, a pilot study. Cancer Letters 65:9-13; 1992.

4. Dunn, C, Liebman, M. Plasma Lipid Alterations in Vegetarian Males Resulting From the Substitution of Tofu for Cheese. Nutr. Research 6:1343-1352, 1986.

5. Smith, G.D. and J. Pekkanen. Should there be a moratorium on the use of cholesterol lowering drugs? Brit Med J 304:431-4; 1992.

6. First International Symposium on the Role of Soy in Preventing and Treating Chronic Disease. Lectures and poster presentations, Feb. 20-23, 1994, Mesa Pavilion Hotel, Mesa, Arizona.

7. Messina, Mark Ph.D., Messina, Virginia, R.D. The Simple Soybean and Your Health. Avery Publishers, New York, 1994.

Dr. Bailey appears regularly on TV and the national radio talk show Here's To Your Health, he as written numerous magazine articles and he travels around the world speaking about optimal wellness of the body, mind and spirit. He also develops personalized wellness programs for individuals, families and corporations.

His latest book is the SECRETS TO HAPPINESS, INNER PEACE AND HEALTH: COMPLETE GUIDE TO OPTIMAL WELLNESS OF BODY, MIND AND SPIRIT); his 1997 corporate lecture series is TWELVE ESSENTIAL KEYS TO SUCCESS.

Dr. Bailey also does consultation worldwide over the phone, mail or by e-mail.

 

(606) 324-3668 or Email To

 

Dr. Bailey's Office

Dr. Bailey's Adorable Ragdoll cats

drbrianbailey@aol.com

For more information on losing fat see Dr. Baileys latest book.

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For more information on losing fat see Dr. Baileys latest book.

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10/1/06