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The Goodness of SOY
The reduced calcium excretion is particularly important because the urinary calcium comes directly from the skeletal system. Consequently, it is thought that over the course of many years, substituting soy protein for meat protein will reduce risk of osteoporosis.

In addition to the benefits of soy protein, soyfoods contain a group of plant compounds called isoflavones.The soybean is the only food to contain nutritionally relevant amounts isoflavones.

More than 600 scientific and medical papers are published annually on these soybean components. Isoflavones are being investigated for their ability to reduce risk of breast and prostate cancer, coronary heart disease, osteoporosis, and improve cognitive function(6, 7).

Obviously, from a nutritional perspective it makes sense to eat soyfoods. One of the most convenient, and healthiest ways to do so,is to substitute soy-based meat analogues for meat. In this way,one gets the benefits of soy, while also reducing the intake of saturated fat and cholesterol, and heteroclycic amines, potentially harmful carcinogenic compounds that are formed when meatis cooked(8).

The Goodness of Soy
Dr. Mark Messina

   Although soy foods have been consumed by Southeast Asian countries for centuries, only recently have Western consumers begun to incorporate soy into their diet. This change in attitude toward soy foods is attributed to two reasons.

First, research indicating that soy may directly reduce risk of several chronic diseases including coronary heart disease, osteoporosis, and certain forms of cancer. Second, concern that diets based too heavily on animal products may increase risk of those same diseases.

Therefore, substituting soy for animal products, especially meat products, may be especially beneficial.

The quality of soy protein is similar to animal protein in that both proteins are equally able to meet the biological requirements for essential amino acids (the building blocks of protein)(1).

In fact, recent research in older men shows that the consumption of soy protein produces exercise-induced muscle gain similar to that produced in response to the consumption of beef protein (2).

However, soy foods don't contain the large amounts of saturated fat and cholesterol typically found in meat products. Furthermore, soy protein independently lowers blood cholesterol levels. The cholesterol-lowering effects of soy protein have been formally recognized by the United States Government(3).

Research also suggests that when compared to animal protein, soy protein
reduces urinary calcium excretion(4) and favourably affects kidney function(5)

U.S. Department of Agriculture. Modification of the Vegetable
Protein Products Requirements for the National School Lunch Program, School
Breakfast Program, Summer Food Service Program and Child and Adult Care Food
Program. Federal Register 2000;7 CFR Parts 210, 215, 220, 225 and
Haub MD, Wells AM, Tarnopolsky MA, Campbell WW. Effect of protein
source on resistive-training-induced changes in body composition and muscle
size in older men. Am J Clin Nutr 2002;76:511-7.
Food and Drug Administration. Food labeling, health claims, soy
protein, and coronary heart disease. Fed Reg 1999;57:699-733.
Breslau NA, Brinkley L, Hill KD, Pak CY. Relationship of animal
protein-rich diet to kidney stone formation and calcium metabolism. J Clin
Endocrinol Metab 1988;66:140-6.
Kontessis P, Jones S, Dodds R, et al. Renal, metabolic and hormonal
responses to ingestion of animal and vegetable proteins. Kidney Int
Messina MJ, Persky V, Setchell KD, Barnes S. Soy intake and cancer
risk: a review of the in vitro and in vivo data. Nutr Cancer 1994;21:113-31.
Setchell KD, Cassidy A. Dietary isoflavones: biological effects and
relevance to human health. J Nutr 1999;129:758S-767S.
Nagao M. A new approach to risk estimation of food-borne
carcinogens--heterocyclic amines--based on molecular information. Mutat Res 1999;431:3-12.

Mark Messina has a PhD in nutrition and was a former program director with National Cancer Institute (USA). He has organized and chaired four international symposia on the role of soy in preventing and treating chronic disease, owns his own consulting business, Nutrition Matters, Inc., and is an adjunct associate professor in the Dept. of Nutrition at Loma Linda University (Loma Linda, CA). 
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