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Daily Nutrition & Health

Soy for Men: Things to Know About This Power Protein

Luigi Gratton, M.D., MPH – Vice President, Training January 23, 2024

One of the most popular proteins consumed around the world is soy. Enjoyed by a variety of different cultures, soy remains one of the best sources of protein, iron, omega-3 fat, fiber, calcium and other essential vitamins. In fact, it’s common for people to eat soy once, twice or even three times a day.

The health benefits of soy are numerous, well-researched and growing, however, misconceptions about its effect on men have also grown in the last decade.

Let’s explore where these reports came from and how a diet featuring soy can help you live a healthy lifestyle.

Is Soy Good for Muscle Building?

You may have heard that soy protein isn’t as effective as whey or casein when you’re looking for a postworkout shake. But the science may actually surprise you.

A meta-analysis published in the International Journal of Sports Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism found that soy protein is just as good as animal protein. According to the study, resistance exercise training with soy protein can lead to increases in muscle mass and strength similar to supplementation with animal protein.

So don’t be quick to judge plant-based proteins, as there are many vegetarian and vegan athletes who supplement their diets with soy-based foods and products. If you’re looking to build muscle, soy may be the right choice for you.

Does Consuming Soy Raise Estrogen and/or Lower Testosterone in Men?

The simple answer is “no,” but there are two case reports in which two older men saw hormonal changes after consuming an extreme amount of soy. Each man consumed about nine times the amount of isoflavones, which are naturally occurring plant chemicals classified as phytoestrogens.

Although phytoestrogens are abundant in soy, soybean isoflavones (phytoestrogens) differ at molecular and clinical levels from the human hormone estrogen. When observing the effect of isoflavones/phytoestrogens on testosterone levels in men, extensive studies show that they have no effect on testosterone or estrogen in men.

Furthermore, both men in the case studies discussed they derived a majority of their calories from one food – soy. Because of this, they are considered to be living on a nutrient-deficient diet. Too much of any food may lead to health problems, including hormonal shifts.

These two cases are rare and differ greatly from the amount of soy consumed by other older men in Japan. If you incorporate soy into your diet in a healthy, balanced way, you may see great health benefits.

Soy Does Not Increase the Risk for Developing Prostate Cancer

This idea stems from a similar phytoestrogen misconception as previously discussed. In reality, soy may help save your life. Research shows that soy can reduce the risk of prostate cancer in men, the second most commonly occurring cancer in men worldwide. Plus a review of 30 observation studies shows that high-soy diets were linked to a significantly lower risk of developing prostate cancer.

The initial interest in researching this phenomenon came from observing prostate cancer mortality rates in Asia more than 30 years ago. Per every 100,000 men in Japan, Korea and China, prostate cancer incidence rates are 26.6, 22.4 and 12.0, respectively. By contrast, in the U.S., prostate cancer rates for Blacks and non-Hispanic whites are 178.8 and 112.3, respectively..

So let’s clear up the confusion on soy in relation to prostate cancer development. Not only is it a myth, but consuming soy can also be beneficial for your long-term health.

Soy Can Help You Live a Healthy Life

By providing high-quality protein and healthy fat, soy is quickly becoming the ideal choice for people who want to make healthier choices in their lives. It’s a healthy plant-based protein that supports muscle growth, helps to maintain normal blood cholesterol levels and comes with a range of other benefits to your health and the environment.

So unless you have a soy allergy, you don’t have to worry about soy foods.