There is a lot written and discussed concerning soya, the bean originally grown in the East. Commonly found in its natural form, soya sauce, torn and soya milk, it contains protease inhibitors and isoflavins and other chemicals, all or any of which may act as an anticancer and anti-atheroma compound.

Soya has been the main vegetable crop to be experimented with using gene altering or genetic tampering techniques. Ensure that any products containing soya come from a natural, organic source and do not contain genetically altered substance .

Soya products contain chemicals called phyto-oestrogens. These chemicals are known to inhibit an enzyme that converts not so active oestrogenlike compounds into the more potent oestradiol. These chemicals also occupy receptor sites on cells. Both of these reactions stop oestrogen from acting and exhibiting its effects.

The Japanese and Chinese have used soya in large quantities as part of their normal diet and show no detrimental oestrogen effects. In fact, soya may be responsible for the lowered levels of breast cancer in the Japanese race. It is suggested that some property of soya combines with oestrogen receptors and prevents oestrogen from affecting the growth rate of particular oestrogen-sensitive cancer cells. The paradox occurs because we use soya for its oestrogen-like effect in menopause but use it as an oestrogen blocker in cancer.

Until clearer evidence is available as to whether or not soya works as a weak oestrogen or as an oestrogen blocker or both, enjoy it as a food but do not consume it in excessive doses unless you are an oestrogen-sensitive cancer risk.

It may be wise not to use high quantities of soya products in infants and children following studies in animals in New Zealand around 1994. There have been no studies performed on human beings and therefore there are no known risks, only assumptions. It is worth noting that the levels of oestrogens that a foetus is subjected to in utero are probably much higher than any level caused by soya food products.

Soya is a valuable protein source and essential in vegan diets. It is always worthwhile spending time with a nutritionist if any particular diet format is to be used where a balance may be compromised.