The FDA is finally backtracking on soy

In the dark ages of nutritional medicine — which really wasn’t all that long ago when you think about it — soy emerged as the granddaddy of all “health foods.” And unfortunately, that reputation stuck around far past its expiration date.

I say “unfortunately” because, let’s be clear — the soy that you’ll find lining the shelves of American grocery stores today is not, and never will be, anything close to healthy. In fact, over the past few years, countries like Switzerland, the UK, France, Israel, and Germany have issued public health warning against soy consumption, especially for children.

And as we move into a (hopefully) more enlightened era, it looks like the U.S. FDA may actually be ready to admit that Monsanto’s main cash crop isn’t a paragon of good nutrition after all.

Wishful thinking? Probably. But after years of dragging their feet on the issue, the agency finally proposed the possibility of revoking soy protein’s claim to heart disease prevention. And it’s about time, too.

Many experts in the nutritional industry, myself included, turned their backs on soy a long time ago. Not just because it isn’t the superfood people thought it was back in the 70s. But because it actually poses documented threats to the thyroid and hormone levels of men, women, and children.

Not that you’ll hear any strong stances on this issue out of the FDA. Condemning processed soy as the garbage that it is would be a bridge too far. Instead, they’re simply flirting with the idea of rescinding the official health claim they authorized back in 1999, due to “inconsistent” research findings on soy protein’s heart benefits over the years that followed.

This is, of course, laughably obtuse. Modern soy has been genetically modified beyond all recognition. And it’s routinely soaked with herbicides and pesticides before it makes it into our food supply. Is it any wonder that studies regarding its health benefits are “inconsistent?”

But at the end of the day, it seems the FDA and I agree on something. And needless to say, that’s a big rarity.

While we’re on the subject, though, let’s talk about another inconsistency, shall we? Like the fact that Quaker Oats only reduce cholesterol by about six points — while raising blood sugar significantly more — but yet still qualify for a health claim. Really?!

And don’t even get me started on all the claims Big Pharma gets away with — no matter how modest the benefit and great the harm — simply because they have enough money to jump through the FDA’s hoops.

At least some forms of soy actually are healthy in small doses. (Namely, the traditional, non-GMO, imported Japanese fermented varieties — like tempeh, miso, and natto.)

This is the first time ever the FDA has considered revoking a health claim… I’d consider it monumental, but I know better…

They’re not really going to lay down the hammer that hard. Soy’s health claim will most likely simply be downgraded from “authorized” to “qualified.” The latter requires less rigorous scientific evidence to support it — the soy industry just has to explain that this evidence is limited. (No mention that their product may actually be dangerous is required.)

This is hardly a death sentence for sales. (Health claims of any kind typically garner immediate sales). Fish oil has also earned a “qualified” health claim from the FDA. Which, frankly, just makes you wonder how long it’ll be before that “health food” becomes largely unrecognizable, too.

Because where there’s FDA approval of any kind, you can guarantee somebody paid for it. And where there’s money, there’s always an agenda.

After all is said and done, the soy industry’s agenda may not be hidden quite as well as it used to be. But I doubt it’s going anywhere, no matter how the FDA tries to spin it.