Dr. Weeks’ Comment: Initially I recommended AGAINST soy – until, that is, I read the research! Here is a nice summary:
Soy Products, Fermented Soy Extracts, Haelan 951 etc.
A large number of studies have demonstrated that certain phytochemicals in soy beans help to reduce the risk of cancer, and that the bioavailability of these substances is greatly increased by fermentation. Fermented soy products such as miso, tempeh and natto are a natural part of the diet of the Chinese and Japanese, who have a low risk of breast, colon and prostate cancer (though this may also be related to other dietary and lifestyle factors).
The phytochemicals responsible include the isoflavones, genistein and daidzein. Genistein prevents cancer cells from producing proteins that help cancer cells survive the attacks of the body’s immune system. Genistein and daidzein also have antioxidant effects. Additionally, they have been shown to inhibit the proliferation of cells in various cancer cell cultures, including breast cancer, prostate cancer, sarcoma, neuroblastoma, and retinoblastoma. Genistein has also been reported to inhibit angiogenesis (the growth of new blood vessels required by developing tumours). Soy isoflavones have also been shown to inhibit the enzyme that activates testosterone in the prostate gland and other tissues. This is a potentially effective therapeutic approach to benign prostate enlargement. Other soy substances have been shown to reduce cholesterol levels by binding to the cholesterol in the intestines, inhibiting its absorption.
But a full understanding of the processes by which fermented soy phytochemicals help counteract cancer remains elusive. It has been suggested that soy products may lead to an increased risk of breast cancer. Later studies, however, have indicated that this is not so, perhaps because the phyto-oestrogens in soy products are far weaker than those produced by the body or present in contraceptives.
No negative side effects have been reported except in those with an allergy to soy products. However, genistein counters the efficacy of tamoxifen, a drug commonly used to treat breast cancer. Soy products are also contraindicated among patients with oestrogen receptor-positive breast cancer, although some researchers point out that the phytooestrogens in soy extracts are so much weaker than those produced by the body that the possible effect is more theoretical than actual. It may also be wise to avoid feeding soy milk to babies and young children.
A number of fermented soy extracts are sold as nutritional supplements. Perhaps the most hyped of these in the cancer world is Haelan 951. According to the manufacturer, “Haelan’s (patented) fermentation process hydrolyzes many of the soy bean proteins into amino acids and compounds that are rich in nitrogen and fermentation metabolites of the naturally occurring isoflavones such as genistein, protease inhibitors, saponins, phytosterols, and inositol hexaphosphate (IP-6) compounds in soy beans.” It is described as “an excellent source of pre-digested soy proteins”. It is a thick, beige, bitter-tasting liquid.
The manufacturer of Haelan 951 market it as a high quality nutritional supplement. In a cancer situation, it is promoted as a help in lessening the side effects of radiation and chemotherapy, rather than as a specific anti-cancer agent. They point to a Chinese clinical study involving 318 such cancer patients where Haelan 951 proved useful. Independent, peer-reviewed clinical trials have yet to be conducted.
Other fermented soy extracts include the Chinese preparations, SE-185 and Yang-851, Soy Essence (Jarrow), EcoGen (Econugenics), Nutra-Soy (Narula Research Products), and Soy Option (BioImmune). At around $50 a bottle per day, Haelan is vastly more expensive than the other products, though whether it is a more effective product against cancer remains uncertain. Haelan is said to be the most bitter-tasting of them all.
Haelan Products – The Canadian distributor’s informative website. Understandably, they are keen to market their product, which is reflected in the way information is presented. The US corporate website in Seattle has less information.
Haelan Research Foundation – Details some of the background research.
Well Being Journal – An article concerning the cancer-reversal properties of Haelan 951, largely supported by anecdotal evidence.
Wolfe Clinic – Details of the Chinese clinical trial of Haelan 951.
Columbia News Service – Wendy Brantley’s experience with Haelan 951.
Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center – A brief overview of Haelan 951, with some references to research on soy isoflavones.
Healthier Life – A UK vendor of Haelan 951, with a useful promotional overview, providing references to some scientific studies.
Long Life Catalog Company – A US vendor of Haelan 951. This company provides no postal or email contact addresses.
Cancer Research UK – A press release concerning an epidemiological study that confirms a link between the consumption of soy products and a decreased risk of breast cancer.
BBC News – A news report concerning a study of over 3000 people at the University of Texas Anderson Cancer Center on the positive benefits of the dietary consumption of phyto-oestrogens in regard to the risk of developing lung cancer.
PubMed – Search for “soya cancer”, for a long list of scientific studies.
Numark Pharmacists – A useful overview of the benefits of eating soy products, with references to scientific studies.
Ruchi Health – The top 10 benefits of soy products.
Onibasu – Dr Barry Groves’ article concerning the dangers of soy products, exemplifying the fact that experts often disagree. However, since millions of people in the Far East have consumed soy products for centuries without problems, his case would seem to be overstated.