First, a small aside: I was listening to Radio 4 yesterday on the way to work (as I always do when I drive in; it's the sort of thing that seems right in the mornings) and the decline of "traditional newspapers" was being discussed. Apparently newspapers, in their frenzy to halt the declining circulation figures, have given away more DVDs in UK this year than the UK consumers bought from shops. That definitely smacks of desperation.
However, I don't think the newspaper will die entirely. There may be some form of the "paper" left, even if the best part does happen online. Take The Guardian. A little while back, one of the supplements in the Guardian newspaper published an article entitled "Should we worry about Soya in our food?". It was a well articulated and effective article. As someone who has been lactose intolerant from birth and always hated the taste of neat cow's milk, I've been a mass consumer of soy milk products for years. And here, in this article, a reputable newspaper was saying that, actually...
...soya contains toxins and plant oestrogens powerful enough to disrupt women's menstrual cycles in experiments. It also appeared damaging to the thyroid." James's lobbying eventually forced governments to investigate. In 2002, the British government's expert committee on the toxicity of food (CoT) published the results of its inquiry into the safety of plant oestrogens, mainly from soya proteins, in modern food. It concluded that in general the health benefits claimed for soya were not supported by clear evidence and judged that there could be risks from high levels of consumption for certain age groups. Yet little has happened to curb soya's growth since.
That was uncomfortable reading, but the article had more in store:
...raw mature soya beans contain phytates that prevent mineral absorption and enzyme inhibitors that block the key enzymes we need to digest protein. They are also famous for inducing flatulence.
Christopher Dawson, who owns the Clearspring brand of organic soy sauces, agrees. He lived in Japan for 18 years and his Japanese wife, Setsuko, is a cookery teacher. "I never saw soy beans on the table in Japan - they're indigestible."
Dawson describes the traditional craft method of transforming the soya bean through fermentation, so that its valuable amino acids become available but its antinutrients are tamed. The process involves cooking whole soya beans, complete with their oil, for several hours, then adding the spores of a mould to the mix, and leaving it to ferment for three days to begin the long process of breaking down the proteins and starches. This initial brew is then mixed with salt water and left to ferment for a further 18 months, during which time the temperature will vary with the seasons. The end result is an intensely flavoured condiment in which the soya's chemical composition has been radically altered. Traditional miso is similarly made with natural whole ingredients, slowly aged.
The article presents quite a few alarming points for consideration. That the soy bean was not even considered fit for animal feed in its natural form; that the isoflavones (supposedly famed for their health benefits) may actually be doing us harm, and so on and so on. Reading through it, I felt fairly convinced. I would have to cut out soy milk and find an alternative that wasn't cow's milk. Fermented Tofu, Miso and Soy sauce would still be okay to eat.
And here's the bit where my aside from the beginning becomes relevant. I decided to look the article up on the Guardian Unlimited website, just in case there had been any further discussion on the topic. A rebuttal was posted and entertaining comments added. Too right there had been discussion! This is the bit where the Internet wins hands down. I've touched on this subject in my own posts before (about how the "article" - be it a blog post or a newspaper article - is only the beginning, where the Internet is concerned, whereas in a dead tree publication you may get a few letters to the editor, or may not, but there is unlikely to be instant and comprehensive two-way dialogue about the subject).
Sadly, the quality of the rebuttal in the case of the Soy argument was not particularly high - it really did seem more Ad Hominem attack than a proper counter-point that would have attacked the original article's research instead of attacking the people behind the article. Nevertheless, it is always good to have more than one viewpoint, particularly since most people have an agenda to promote something or another.
One of the most amusing comments posted as a reply to the rebuttal, comes from someone calling themselves "germanvegan":
I find it rather silly that the motivation of vegans to oppose or support a view is projected onto the same level as commercial interest, thus greed. People seem to either deny, forget or ignore that vegans are ETHICISTS. Like, hello?
Secondly, and to increase the silliness, one should know that the defamation of soy started the second it was clear that it contained all essential amino acids. You know, like meat. This sent all the people with their claws hacked into the glass of the meat counter into a panic frenzy. In their mind, this was a threat to their beloved meat. This continued even when common nutritional scientists backpeddled on their antivegan stance claiming plant proteins are inferior, when in reality all one had to do is eat two different plants at different times with different protein contend to have a complete dietary protein ratio.
Germanvegan makes some good points there. His comment goes on beyond the bits I quoted. He fails to consider that promoting a vegan lifestyle could still be considered a business interest. Nothing is ever that black and white. Sadly. Life would be so much easier if that weren't the case.
It's usually best to take everything with a pinch of salt (or should that be with a pinch of soy sauce?) and do your own research if you are truly concerned about something. So my question "to Soy or not to Soy" has therefore not yet been answered to my satisfaction.
One of my biggest pet hates about people, is the frequency with which you bump into single-minded blinkerdness (sorry, I just made up that word; hope you don't mind). People with such need to be right about something that they willfully ignore evidence, or don't even realise they're ignoring it, or interpreting it to suit their agenda. Having said that, it's almost impossible for any human being to be wholly objective, but that's another blog post's worth of material, so I'll leave that there for now.