Soy was cited as having a significant role in a healthy, sustainable and environmentally responsible diet by the EAT-Lancet Commission in an article published recently.
The commission is comprised of 19 commissioners and 18 coauthors from 16 counties in various fields of human health, agriculture, political sciences, and environmental sustainability. Its objective was to quantitatively describe a universal healthy reference diet to provide a basis for estimating the health and environmental effects of adopting an alternative diet to standard current diets, many of which are high in unhealthy foods.
This healthy reference diet as defined by the authors, largely consists of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and unsaturated oils, includes a low to moderate amount of seafood and poultry, and includes no or a low quantity of red meat, processed meat, added sugar, refined grains, and starchy vegetables.
The reference diet calls for consuming up to 100 grams of legumes per day, which includes dry beans, lentils and peas, soyfoods, and peanuts. Soyfoods were listed separately under the category of legumes; the recommendation was to consume 25 grams per day. Soyfoods were recognized for being high in protein and for possibly reducing risk of developing breast cancer and other hormone-related cancers. Soybeans were also recognized for their environmental effects; for example, growing soybeans produces minimal amounts of greenhouse gases and their production requires relatively little land and energy.
The Commission not only recognized soyfoods but also soybean oil. The reference diet called for consumption of 40 grams per day of unsaturated oils such as soybean oil. Soybeans were noted for their high content of polyunsaturated fat including a high concentration of the essential omega-3 fatty acid, α-linolenic acid. According to the report, α-linolenic acid may have independent coronary benefits. Importantly, a case control study from Costa Rica was cited that found the consumption of palm oil was significantly associated with greater risk of myocardial infarction in comparison to the consumption of soybean oil.
Finally, while the Soy Nutrition Institute is gratified that the EAT–Lancet Commission highlighted the health and nutritional properties of soyfoods and soybean oil, we recognize the limitations of its report. Some of its findings are controversial and open to debate. More rigorously conducted evaluations on health and diet issues, complete with reference citations, are reviewed regularly in this blog. Visit www.thesoynutritioninstitute.com for more in-depth reporting and analysis on a wide range of related issues.