Is Soy Safe? Is Butter Back?

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Nutrition experts encourage sifting through science and media claims with critical eyes.

What follows is part of a series of reports on presentations given at the Seventh International Congress on Vegetarian Nutrition in Loma Linda, California, United States, from February 26-28, 2018. Individual stories provide a summary of various topics covered at the event. ~ Adventist Review Editors

We have all been there.

You listen, watch, or read a compelling report about the beneficial properties of a specific nutrition option on a respected media outlet. The report’s claims — it is emphasized — are backed by the latest science. You find yourself agreeing with what you see or hear—you are, so to say, ‘talked into it.’ As a ‘new convert,’ you go out immediately to purchase the advertised panacea fruit, vegetable, grain, or oil. Barely a few days later, however, you come across another health report on the nutrition item in question. The only difference is that this time, science-backed claims seem to be pointing out right in the opposite direction.

How to make sense of all these conflicting pieces of information? How to sift out fact from fiction, sound dietary suggestions from faddish baloney?

These and similar questions were not directly addressed during the Loma Linda’s International Congress on Vegetarian Nutrition in Loma Linda, California, United States, in late February 2018. On the sidelines, however, several presentations and at least one of the plenary sessions provided enlightening windows into the way science and public opinion work, including sources that inform what media outlets “buy” and we, in turn, consume.

Below are a couple of examples, as illustrated in two of the congress presentations.

Science Blues: Soy Consumption and Breast Cancer

The way science has dealt with soy consumption in breast cancer survivors is one significant example of science’s shortcomings and biases, said Mark Messina, adjunct professor at Loma Linda’s School of Public Health. Rigorous debates have weighed in on the impact of post-diagnosis soy intake on the prognosis of breast cancer survivors, he shared. First concerns were raised after rodent studies published in the 1990’s showed that soybean isoflavones stimulate the growth of existing mammary tumors in mice implanted with human breast cancer cells.

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