Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome
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Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome and Soy

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Soybeans contain isoflavones, chemicals that are similar to estrogen. These are widely thought to be the active ingredients in soy, although there is substantial evidence that other constituents may be equally or more important.

The quality of the soy being consumed is extremely important. Some claim that as much as 90% of the soy being grown in the United States is "genetically modified organisms" or GMOs. This means the seeds of these crops have been modified in a laboratory in such a way to alter their natural state. The implications of such GMOs is not yet known, but it is speculated that having been modified, consuming too much of these products can have a negative effect on one's health.

Effect of Soy on Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome

Soy has been said to possibly help with hormone regulation for those with PCOS.

Read more details about Soy.

Safety Issues

Studies in animals have found soy essentially nontoxic. 1 And it is reassuring to note that researchers found no evidence of ill effects when they gave healthy postmenopausal women 900 mg of soy isoflavones a day for 84 consecutive days. 2 However, soy or its isoflavones could conceivably have some potentially harmful effects in certain specific situations.

Soy appears to have numerous potential effects involving the thyroid gland. When given to individuals with impaired thyroid function , soy products have been observed to reduce absorption of thyroid medication. 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 In addition, some evidence hints that soy isoflavones may directly inhibit the function of the thyroid gland, although this inhibition may only be significant in individuals who are deficient in iodine. 17 However, to make matters even more confusing, studies of healthy humans and animals given soy isoflavones or other soy products have generally found that soy either had no effect on thyroid hormone levels or actually increased levels. 18 The bottom line: In view of soy’s complex effects regarding the thyroid, individuals with impaired thyroid function should not take large amounts of soy products except under the supervision of a physician.

One study found that soy products may decrease testosterone levels in men. 19 This could conceivably cause problems for men with infertility or erectile dysfunction .

Soy may reduce the absorption of the nutrients zinc, iron, and calcium. 20 21 22 23 To avoid absorption problems, you should probably take these minerals at least 2 hours apart from eating soy.

Other concerns relate to the estrogenic properties of soy isoflavones. For example, while soy is thought to reduce the risk of developing breast cancer, it is possible that soy might not be safe for women who have already had breast cancer. In addition, there are concerns that intensive use of soy products by pregnant women could exert a hormonal effect that impacts unborn fetuses. Finally, fears have been expressed by some experts that soy might interfere with the action of oral contraceptives . However, one study of 36 women found reassuring results. 24 For more information on these and other safety issues regarding the isoflavones in soy, see the full Isoflavones article.

One observational study raised concerns that soy might impair mental function. 25 However, observational studies are highly unreliable by nature, and experts do not consider this a serious issue. 26 Additionally, a number of studies looking at cognitive improvement have found that soy or soy isoflavones either have no effect on mental function, or perhaps minimally improve it. 27

Interactions You Should Know About

If you are taking:

  • Zinc , iron , or calcium supplements: It may be best to eat soy at a different time of day to avoid absorption problems.
  • Thyroid hormone : You should consult your physician before increasing your intake of soy products.

References

  1. Crowell JA, Levine BS, Page JG, et al. Preclinical safety studies of isoflavones [abstract]. J Nutr. 2000;130(suppl):677S.
  2. Pop EA, Fischer LM, Coan AD, Gitzinger M, Nakamura J, Zeisel SH. Effects of a high daily dose of soy isoflavones on DNA damage, apoptosis, and estrogenic outcomes in healthy postmenopausal women: a phase I clinical trial. Menopause. 15(4 Pt 1):684-92.
  3. Chorazy PA, Himelhoch S, Hopwood NJ, Greger NG, Postellon DC. Persistent hypothyroidism in an infant receiving a soy formula: case report and review of the literature. Pediatrics. 96(1 Pt 1):148-50.
  4. Jabbar MA, Larrea J, Shaw RA. Abnormal thyroid function tests in infants with congenital hypothyroidism: the influence of soy-based formula. J Am Coll Nutr. 16(3):280-2.
  5. Nävert B, Sandström B, Cederblad A. Reduction of the phytate content of bran by leavening in bread and its effect on zinc absorption in man. Br J Nutr. 53(1):47-53.
  6. Hallberg L, Rossander L, Skånberg AB. Phytates and the inhibitory effect of bran on iron absorption in man. Am J Clin Nutr. 45(5):988-96.
  7. Heaney RP, Weaver CM, Fitzsimmons ML. Soybean phytate content: effect on calcium absorption. Am J Clin Nutr. 53(3):745-7.
  8. Vohra P, Gray GA, Kratzer FH. Phytic acid-metal complexes. Proc Soc Exp Biol Med. 120(2):447-9.
  9. Evans GW. Normal and abnormal zinc absorption in man and animals: the tryptophan connection. Nutr Rev. 38(4):137-41.
  10. Persky VW, Turyk ME, Wang L, Freels S, Chatterton R Jr, Barnes S, Erdman J Jr, Sepkovic DW, Bradlow HL, Potter S. Effect of soy protein on endogenous hormones in postmenopausal women. Am J Clin Nutr. 75(1):145-53.
  11. Dewell A, Hollenbeck CB, Bruce B. The effects of soy-derived phytoestrogens on serum lipids and lipoproteins in moderately hypercholesterolemic postmenopausal women. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 87(1):118-21.
  12. Sirtori CR, Bosisio R, Pazzucconi F, et al. Soy milk with a high glycitein content does not reduce low-density lipoprotein cholesterolemia in type II hypercholesterolemic patients. Ann Nutr Metab. 2002;46:88-92.  
  13. Kotsopoulos D, Dalais FS, Liang YL, McGrath BP, Teede HJ. The effects of soy protein containing phytoestrogens on menopausal symptoms in postmenopausal women. Climacteric. 3(3):161-7.
  14. Van Patten CL, Olivotto IA, Chambers GK, Gelmon KA, Hislop TG, Templeton E, Wattie A, Prior JC. Effect of soy phytoestrogens on hot flashes in postmenopausal women with breast cancer: a randomized, controlled clinical trial. J Clin Oncol. 20(6):1449-55.
  15. Kumar NB, Cantor A, Allen K, Riccardi D, Cox CE. The specific role of isoflavones on estrogen metabolism in premenopausal women. Cancer. 94(4):1166-74.
  16. Messina M, Gardner C, Barnes S. Gaining insight into the health effects of soy but a long way still to go: commentary on the fourth International Symposium on the Role of Soy in Preventing and Treating Chronic Disease. J Nutr. 132(3):547S-551S.
  17. Doerge DR, Sheehan DM. Goitrogenic and estrogenic activity of soy isoflavones. Environ Health Perspect. 110 Suppl 3():349-53.
  18. Persky VW, Turyk ME, Wang L, Freels S, Chatterton R Jr, Barnes S, Erdman J Jr, Sepkovic DW, Bradlow HL, Potter S. Effect of soy protein on endogenous hormones in postmenopausal women. Am J Clin Nutr. 75(1):145-53.
  19. Gardner-Thorpe D, O'Hagen C, Young I, Lewis SJ. Dietary supplements of soya flour lower serum testosterone concentrations and improve markers of oxidative stress in men. Eur J Clin Nutr. 57(1):100-6.
  20. Nävert B, Sandström B, Cederblad A. Reduction of the phytate content of bran by leavening in bread and its effect on zinc absorption in man. Br J Nutr. 53(1):47-53.
  21. Hallberg L, Rossander L, Skånberg AB. Phytates and the inhibitory effect of bran on iron absorption in man. Am J Clin Nutr. 45(5):988-96.
  22. Heaney RP, Weaver CM, Fitzsimmons ML. Soybean phytate content: effect on calcium absorption. Am J Clin Nutr. 53(3):745-7.
  23. Vohra P, Gray GA, Kratzer FH. Phytic acid-metal complexes. Proc Soc Exp Biol Med. 120(2):447-9.
  24. Martini MC, Dancisak BB, Haggans CJ, Thomas W, Slavin JL. Effects of soy intake on sex hormone metabolism in premenopausal women. Nutr Cancer. 34(2):133-9.
  25. White LR, Petrovitch H, Ross GW, Masaki K, Hardman J, Nelson J, Davis D, Markesbery W. Brain aging and midlife tofu consumption. J Am Coll Nutr. 19(2):242-55.
  26. Messina M, Gardner C, Barnes S. Gaining insight into the health effects of soy but a long way still to go: commentary on the fourth International Symposium on the Role of Soy in Preventing and Treating Chronic Disease. J Nutr. 132(3):547S-551S.
  27. Kreijkamp-Kaspers S, Kok L, Grobbee DE, de Haan EH, Aleman A, Lampe JW, van der Schouw YT. Effect of soy protein containing isoflavones on cognitive function, bone mineral density, and plasma lipids in postmenopausal women: a randomized controlled trial. JAMA. 292(1):65-74.

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