The Whole Soy Story: The Dark Side of America's Favorite Health Food
By Kaayla T. Daniel, PhD, CCN (Originally published in the March/April 2007 issue of Canada EarthSaver)
Reviewed by Syd Baumel
If you've ever wondered how a slick prosecutor would throw the book at a beleagured health food, this opus is for you. But beware: there's no defense attorney in the courtroom. Unless you're an expert on the voluminous science of soy or have a few weeks to pore through medical journals fact-checking Kaayla Daniel's forty-four pages of references (and the inconvenient ones she left out), you can easily be bamboozled by her slick 394-page indictment. But if you do know even a little soy science or care to do a little fact-checking (almost any page will do), you'll find that the most revealing thing about The Whole Soy Story is the extent to which the author twists the truth to sell you a bill of goods. Why would a certified nutritionist want to make you fear soy and hate the people who say it's good for you? Well, for one, Kaayla Daniel's Ph.D. is at least partially earned from a distance learning institute (the Union Institute) and she has never published a scientific paper. So not all is what it seems. Daniel also sits on the board of an organization that is to soy what Robert Cohen's “Dairy Education Board” is to milk (i.e., pseudoscientific “food disparagement”).
Most of the soy-bashing you can find online and in print can be traced to Sally Fallon and Sue Enig, the food ideologues who run the Weston A. Price Foundation. So can The Whole Soy Story. Fallon is editor and publisher of the book by her protegee and fellow Weston Price board member Kaayla Daniel. The mission of the Weston A. Price Foundation, according to its website, is “to disseminate the research of nutrition pioneer Dr. Weston Price....Dr. Price's research demonstrated that humans achieve perfect physical form and perfect health generation after generation only when they consume nutrient-dense whole foods and the vital fat-soluble activators found exclusively in animal fats.”
For Weston A. Price Foundation food activists, the 1930s research and speculation of a Cleveland dentist (Price) have translated into a 21st century mission to make promoters of plant-based diets look misguided, or downright evil. Soy – nemesis of the butter, lard, pork and other animal fat and protein sources promoted by the Foundation (in fairness, they do promote the natural/organic kind and are sincere in their beliefs) – is squarely in their sights. The Weston Price posse is so determined to throw everything they can at soy and hope it sticks that they spin and distort the evidence to the point of making their critiques useless for consumers who hunger for a fair reckoning, for the real whole story. Like Fallon and Enig's articles, Daniel's book teems with one-sided errors, exaggerations and half-truths. It's hard to find a page or a section that doesn't crack or crumble under educated scrutiny or elementary fact-checking. I've given a few detailed “caught-in-the-act” examples in a longer review of the book published at eatkind.net/wholesoystory.htm. For more well-earned brickbats, see the flood of letters provoked by an abridgement of the book published three years ago in Mothering Magazine: mothering.com/sections/extras/soy-letters.html. And don't miss John Robbins's measured deconstruction of a classic Fallon and Enig anti-soy rant at foodrevolution.org/what_about_soy.htm.
The irony is that soy, like any food, is endowed with a pharmacy of natural chemicals that help account not only for the copious evidence of its benefits, but (and this is what the research really tells us) its limited capacity to cause trouble – to promote “goiter” (a type of hypothyroidism), for example, in people who are iodine-deficient (a property soy shares with brussel sprouts, another medicinal food that appears to prevent cancer).
Among the things that do concern me about soy, seven years after writing one of the first feature articles to expose its “dark side”, is the healthfulness of modern, highly processed soy products (soy protein concentrates etc.), the long-term effects of soy infant formula and the possibility – as faint as it is disturbing – that moderate soy consumption might promote senile dementia. The research relating to these concerns is far too weak, preliminary and/or contradictory to prove anything; and by chance alone one would expect about one in every twenty studies of soy to sound a false alarm. Still, an accessible, yet scholarly book that examines the “dark side of soy” fairly – what The Whole Soy Story pretends to do – would be a welcome addition, even if the news wasn't all good for vegetarians.