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August 13, 2008 Why am I getting this?
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Soy linked to dementia

Dear Friend,

It turns out if you eat soy products, you're demented — literally. Research from Indonesia has discovered a link between high consumption of tofu and poor memory.

The study analyzed soy intakes of Indonesians from both rural and urban environments, and then used a word-learning test sensitive to dementia. The researchers found that tofu consumption decreased memory. On the other hand, they found that another soy product called "tempe," which is fermented, actually showed an increase in memory among the test subjects.

"Tempe contains high levels of phytoestrogens, but due to fermentation also exhibits high folate levels which may exert protective effects," the researchers said.

This helps strengthen the argument that the soy is the cause of the mental decline. It's likely that the fermentation of the tempe products helps to offset the potential damage of the soy product. The researchers wouldn't go so far as to make this link, but to me it's obvious.

Here's what really gets me about this research: Apparently doctors still don't know whether the detrimental effects of soy on cognitive ability are the result of isoflavones or – get this – toxic additives like formaldehyde, which is used as a preservative in Indonesia. If you ask me, it's a case of both – formaldahyde is definitely toxic, and isoflavones aren't much better.

Isoflavones can be harmful because they are phytoestrogens that could actually promote the production of cell-damaging free radicals. This assists the build-up of plaque from beta-amyloid deposits, which have been linked to Alzheimer's disease. They also have an estrogen-like action, making them carcinogenic — especially to women.

When you consider the widespread consumption of soy products in Indonesia, and that they are a substantial part of the day-to-day diet, this could have a significant impact over many years. Soy consumption is far greater in Indonesia than here in the U.S. – but with the way things are going, we can't be too far behind.

Let me take a moment to give you a breakdown of all the bad things that are associated with soy: It's been linked to heart disease, cancer (especially breast cancer), reduced immunity, thyroid dysfunction, calcium deficits, reproductive disorders, even leukemia … horrific stuff.

When you think about it, this study could have found one potential benefit of soy: maybe it will addle your brain to the point that you'll forget to eat the stuff!

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Insurance companies forced to pay up

While I'm on the topic of the dangers of soy, remember this: it's a key ingredient in many baby formulas. Many babies are actually allergic to it, but since most formulas are soy or milk based, children with soy and milk allergies are in a bind. Parents must resort to feeding their babies alternate amino acid-based formulas that are both hard-to-find and brutally expensive.

These allergies are a genuine medical issue for these children, and yet many insurance companies insist that it is a nutritional issue, not a medical one (big shock – the insurance companies don't want to pay). This refusal has left families with formula costs that could run as high as $600 a month.

Thankfully, new legislation is being enacted in Maryland that will require insurance companies to cover the cost of these formulas. It's a nice win for the families. The law will go into effect this October.

What's sickening is that, for many of these children (three percent of children are born with milk and soy allergies), the only alternative to amino acid-based formulas is a feeding tube. And yet, the insurance companies still maintained that the formula – which cannot be obtained over-the-counter – was not a medical necessity!

It's good to see that, for once, the powerful insurance lobbies were not able to halt the Maryland state legislature from doing the right thing. Heck, if you ask me the next step should be taking the soy-based formulas off the market altogether!

Seeking an end to soy,

William Campbell Douglass II, M.D.

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