No to soya protein; the facts

Reflex Nutrition - Feb.27.15

A few years ago I spoke about why we don’t use soya protein in our products and I really wanted to expand on why it has no place in a Reflex product

I want to support our anti-soya position with referenced studies. In short, deliver an article that really does make you think twice about buying another protein powder that contains soya protein. There are various articles that attempt to vindicate soya, but I’m not sure why when there are so many question marks relating to its use. Just remember there are so many significantly superior and safe alternatives without any question marks attached to them.

GMO soya, its production and hexane

Soya protein is largely derived from GMO soya crops which are used to make soya protein isolate. It’s the manufacturing of soya that is one of the real issues I have. One of the cheaper extraction methods to make soya protein uses a solvent called hexane, whilst there are other water-based extraction methods that avoid the use of hexane it’s used by a minority of brands and is more expensive. In the following link you will see a news article that talks about independently-tested soya products and the associated levels of hexane discovered in various soya products. Whichever way you want to look at this, one thing is absolutely clear. Soya protein manufacturing using hexane is not the ideal. The question is how can you tell if the soya protein in your protein powder contains traces of hexane? I’d ask the supplement company and if they say “we’ll look into it”, it’s probably because they don’t know themselves which to me is completely inexcusable. This is really just part of the story and I don’t want to spend too much time on how soya is made, suffice to say if you consume soya let’s hope it is completely free from hexane.

Soya as a source of protein for sports nutrition

Assuming you are not vegan, soya really has no place in sports nutrition, pea in our opinion is a better alternative. The biological value of soya is lower than the big three, those being whey, egg and micellar casein. Soya is lower in essential amino acids and contains few branched chain amino acids, so again its use is questionable at best. The following human study quite clearly demonstrates soya’s inferior ability to stimulate protein synthesis vs milk proteins. The authors quote “Milk-based proteins promote muscle protein accretion to a greater extent than do soya-based proteins when consumed after resistance exercise” The next study focuses on the effect of healthy males consuming 56 grams of soya protein daily for a month. Serum testosterone dropped by 19%, absolutely the last thing you want if you are an athlete. The authors quote “Soya protein powder decreases serum testosterone levels in healthy men and acts as an ER-β agonist.”

It’s never one sided? Over 170 negative studies might suggest otherwise

The story for and against soya is not one-sided and yes I’ve cherry picked two studies above to illustrate negative aspects of soya. Many will argue a case for soya and others, like me, will argue the case against. The trouble is for me that even a handful of negative studies will worry me. The trouble is there are more than a few, here is a link to another interesting article with links to over 170 negative studies relating to soya consumption. With such a significant number of published studies even those fanatical about soya must have nagging doubts about consuming it in even moderate amounts.

Soya protein isolate is used in significant amounts in sports nutrition

Soya in small amounts is not the issue; foods like tofu, soya sauce and natto have a long history of consumption. The issue for me is the amount of soya protein and the associated phyates, trypsin inhibitors and phytoestrogens that can be and are used in protein powders, all-in-one bodybuilding supplements and protein bars. Today it’s very easy to buy a protein blend with soya protein isolate as a main ingredient, same for the all-in-one powders and it’s the same story for protein bars. It is therefore quite possible to be consuming at least 50 grams of highly concentrated soya daily without even realising it, and that is a huge amount compared to a diet with some weekly consumption of tofu and other fermented soya foods. If I was a cynical manufacturer I could see the attraction of its use in protein powders. They are a cheap source of protein and increase profits, in protein bars they can help with shelf life at reduced costs, once again boosting profits. What I don’t like is the fact that certain brands then imply that the very same products are the best on the market. That’s simply not possible. If you are replacing whey/casein/egg with soya then in my book you are compromising. It can only be included to cut costs unless I’ve missed something in the last 20 years? If someone can give me a better explanation I’d love to know why. Today, me and my family avoid soya protein-containing foods as a precautionary measure; we simply don’t need it in our diets and I’m not prepared to take the risk. Nor am I prepared to sacrifice quality of Reflex products and formulate products with soya protein.