Another quick-fix dietary supplement comes on the scene. Before you know it, it’s popping up everywhere, even in the Church. While my nutrition counseling has always maintained the principle that health cannot come from diets or dietary supplements, I was not aware of the health problems that the new Visalus products were causing until a nutritional counseling friend of mine alerted me to them just recently. He said:
This past week, I had an issue brought to me by a friend that in the past I have helped to clear up some significant health problems. Unbeknownst to me, this individual decided to go on a diet without telling me what they were doing. I get this panicked message stating that they went to the doctor and that the doctor was recommending they go on thyroid medication as it had nearly shut down. This person said they had been on this diet for several months and that they lost weight to start with and all of a sudden the weight loss stopped. I finally asked what the diet was and it was the evermore popular, MLM driven (I have nothing against MLM’s, however they are usually overenthusiastically sold) VISALUS soy-based protein shake.
Of course, this information does not just apply to this brand of shakes. Most of the other nutrition shakes out there contain similar ingredients and pose similar risks. Shaklee, Herbalife, Reliv, and Ensure are some additional shakes that contain soy protein. (Other shakes may not contain soy protein but often contain soybean oil.)
In the past, I have discussed the dangers of unfermented soy on my health page. Contrary to popular belief, soy is NOT a health food. How it ever got promoted as such is beyond me. But I’ll be honest with you; I believed this lie for a while too.
Ten years ago, I gave my second son soy formula from 6 months until his first birthday. Of course, I did so by the doctor’s recommendations. Fast forward about 7 or 8 years and we decide to incorporate a little soy into our diets via tofu and textured vegetable protein (aka TVP, a dehydrated soy product that rehydrates with the texture of ground meat). Shortly thereafter, we had to take the first visit in a long time to the pediatrician’s office. Our son was experiencing heart palpitations and night sweats. When we realized all of the symptoms were related to thyroid problems, I discovered that thyroid problems were often related to soy consumption.
We immediately eliminated those products from our diet and have not seen any recurrence in our son’s hyperthyroid symptoms. I am thankful that God lead me to this information so early on in the problem! If this wisdom had not been revealed to us, here is a brief list of some of the additional symptoms and health problems related to soy consumption that are common:
There are some very good reasons why men shouldn’t be consuming these products, or other soy protein products like protein bars and powders. Did you know that celibate monks living in monasteries and leading a vegetarian lifestyle find soy foods quite helpful for dampening libido?
According to Dr. Mercola:
Soy has also been linked to erectile dysfunction. The two natural drugs found in soy, genistein and daidzein, mimic estrogen so well that they have been known to cause a variety of alarming side effects in men:
- Breast enlargement (gynecomastia)
- Decreased facial and body hair growth
- Decreased libido
- Mood swings and frequent crying jags
- Erectile dysfunction
- Lowered sperm count
For example, one recent study documented a case of gynecomastia in a 60-year-old man as a result of his soy consumption.
Studies have directly assessed the impact of soy, including soy protein powders, on men and infertility rates:
“A study of 99 men attending a fertility clinic found that those subjects who had the highest soy intake also had the lowest sperm counts compared to men who ate no soy foods.”
“In another study, researchers compared the effect of two scoops of pure soy protein powder (56g/day) on the testosterone levels of 12 healthy young men. After 4 weeks of using the soy protein powder, the average testosterone levels of the subjects had decreased by 19%. Once the men stopped taking the soy supplement, their testosterone levels returned to normal after about two weeks (Arbor, 2009).”
If these soy protein trends don’t slow down, rates of infertility are going to continue to skyrocket, and the amount of couples having to deal with not being able to conceive will plague each subsequent generation.
Some personal reports of problems with soy. Maybe you can relate?!
“I have used soy milk for 12 years with no problems. About 9 months ago, I started to have heart palpitations. I thought maybe that I was in menopause, but I wasn’t. I added more potassium to my diet and magnesium and vitamin E. No change. I am already decaffeinated but I also took all sugar out of my diet. I lost 25 pounds and felt great except for the palpitations. I tried hawthorn and garlic but nothing was helping. Recently I came down with acute bronchitis and could only drink water because even the soy milk made me have horrendous bouts of coughing. I realized that after a few days my heart palpitations had stopped. I didn’t think anything of it because it never occurred to me that soy was the culprit. As soon as I started drinking it again, my heart went crazy. I went off it for a week and then changed brands. Within 30 minutes of drinking only 4 ounces [of soy milk], my heart was all over the place. I’ve noticed that it takes about 24 to 36 hours for my heart to settle down. I wondered if your research turned up anything like this in regard to soy. I know it is not within the definition of an allergy, but something is definitely going on. I called the manufacturer of the soy milk, but they were of no help. I am very upset because I only drink soy milk and water. I also use the soy milk to make protein shakes (with what else…but soy protein).” (http://chetday.com/soy.html)
“A pregnant lady who looked very ill and was terribly deficient! She also described her son, age five, who had many allergies and infections – both were using a good deal of soy in their diet. I recommended that they discontinue the use of all soy products. At the time, I had only just run across this situation. However, a year later, I was in the same area for a lecture, and the lady invited me to dinner. She had cut out all soy products: her skin was now rosy, her face filled out, her sunken eyes normal, her black circles gone and her little boy, now six, was in greatly improved health.” (http://chetday.com/soy.html)
Unless soy is traditionally fermented to remove the anti-nutrients (such as in miso, tempeh, and tamari), there are many different problems with it, no matter how “special” it is. Dr. Mercola reviews the main problems:
“Here is a summary of soy’s most glaring problems.
91 percent of soy grown in the US is genetically modified (GM). The genetic modification is done to impart resistance to the toxic herbicide Roundup. While this is meant to increase farming efficiency and provide you with less expensive soy, the downside is that your soy is loaded with this toxic pesticide. The plants also contain genes from bacteria that produce a protein that has never been part of the human food supply.
GM soy has been linked to an increase in allergies. Disturbingly, the only published human feeding study on GM foods ever conducted verified that the gene inserted into GM soy transfers into the DNA of our gut bacteria and continues to function. This means that years after you stop eating GM soy, you may still have a potentially allergenic protein continuously being produced in your intestines.
Even more frightening is the potential for GM soy to cause infertility in future generations, which has been evidenced by recent Russian research.
Soy contains natural toxins known as “anti-nutrients.”
Soy foods contain anti-nutritional factors such as saponins, soyatoxin, phytates, protease inhibitors, oxalates, goitrogens and estrogens. Some of these factors interfere with the enzymes you need to digest protein. While a small amount of anti-nutrients would not likely cause a problem, the amount of soy that many Americans are now eating is extremely high.
Soy contains hemagglutinin.
Hemagglutinin is a clot-promoting substance that causes your red blood cells to clump together. These clumped cells are unable to properly absorb and distribute oxygen to your tissues.
Soy contains goitrogens
Goitrogens are substances that block the synthesis of thyroid hormones and interfere with iodine metabolism, thereby interfering with your thyroid function.
Soy contains phytates.
Phytates (phytic acid) bind to metal ions, preventing the absorption of certain minerals, including calcium, magnesium, iron, and zinc — all of which are co-factors for optimal biochemistry in your body. This is particularly problematic for vegetarians, because eating meat reduces the mineral-blocking effects of these phytates (so it is helpful—if you do eat soy—to also eat meat).
Soy is loaded with the isoflavones genistein and daidzein
Isoflavones are a type of phytoestrogen, which is a plant compound resembling human estrogen. These compounds mimic and sometimes block the hormone estrogen, and have been found to have adverse effects on various human tissues. Soy phytoestrogens are known to disrupt endocrine function, may cause infertility, and may promote breast cancer in women.
Drinking even two glasses of soymilk daily for one month provides enough of these compounds to alter your menstrual cycle. Although the FDA regulates estrogen-containing products, no warnings exist on soy.
Soy has toxic levels of aluminum and manganese
Soybeans are processed (by acid washing) in aluminum tanks, which can leach high levels of aluminum into the final soy product.Soy formula has up to 80 times higher manganese than is found in human breast milk.
Soy infant formula puts your baby’s health at risk.
Nearly 20 percent of U.S. infants are now fed soy formula, but the estrogens in soy can irreversibly harm your baby’s sexual development and reproductive health. Infants fed soy formula take in an estimated five birth control pills’ worth of estrogen every day.
Infants fed soy formula have up to 20,000 times the amount of estrogen in circulation as those fed other formulas!
These phytoestrogens are affecting women in other ways as well: Case studies of women who were taking high levels of soy supplements or foods showed that some women develop abnormal bleeding of the uterus, endometriosis and polyps. Removing soy products from their diets improved their symptoms (Chandrareddy et al, 2008).
There is also the issue of pesticides and genetic modification.
Soy foods are both heavily sprayed with pesticides and genetically modified (GM). More than 80 percent of the soy grown in the United States is GM. And more than 90 percent of American soy crops are GM.
Since the introduction of GM foods in 1996, we’ve had an upsurge in low birth weight babies, infertility, and other problems in the U.S. population, and animal studies thus far have shown devastating effects from consuming GM soy.”
Even if Visalus and other soy-based products are not from genetically-modified soybeans (Reliv & Visalus repeatedly ensure that their soy is not GMO, but since it is not certified organic, there’s no way to know for sure), they still qualify as dangerous foods based on criteria numbers 2-6 above. Even organic soymilk, for instance, can cause permanent thyroid problems. As my nutritional counseling friend adds:
Most of the shakes benefits seem to be from the vitamins and minerals found in the shake and little to do with the shake itself, other than the high protein content which is also a factor. If any product description or marketing starts talking about how many apples, pears, broccoli, etc. you have to eat to compare to what it offers and it is a supposed food replacement-type product, most likely you are being scammed. What sounds so wonderful and a no-brainer is bad for your pocketbook and bad for your health.
But the soy in some of these drinks, especially Visalus, is different, right?! I mean, they go through extra processing to ensure the soy protein does not contain these anti-nutrients. Why, then, are we hearing so many reports of people experiencing the same health problems from these problems that are associated with other soy products?!
For example, one person reported the following from Visalus shakes:
“I signed up with Visalus in Sept. 11, as I’ve been out of work, and loved the taste of the shake. Yet when I received the product, I was sent along with the big distributor kit, huge horse pills to swallow too, which in the little picture of ordering I didn’t see. Called the company, talked to a young gentleman, and complained, since I don’t like swallowing pills. Of which he said he couldn’t do anything about.
I introduced this to one girlfriend, who was on thyroid medication, and after taking a couple bags of product, she started to feel like her medication wasn’t working. So she called me to inquire if I knew if this Visalus was ok to take with her medication. So I Googled about it, and was so alarmed about all the sites I found, which spoke of the the dangers of soy, especially with thyroid problems. I then called the company back and wanted my money back. (Which is about $900 on plastic) As I knew in my heart I couldn’t honestly sell it anymore, was refused credit, because it had been over 60 days.
Without a job, I am stuck with this burden now. Wish I had realized the dangers of soy.”
Don’t wait until you begin to have these problems yourself or hear of others who do. People like myself and my friend who constantly get emails from people describing health problems and symptoms see this more than the average person would. As he also said:
I did receive many reports from others on Facebook who experienced very similar symptoms when they tried using it and from some who had just used soy as a major part of their vegetarian diet. This is the message I want to send is that unfermented soy and especially in the amounts recommended to be consumed by it promoters, Monsanto, vegan gurus, and protein shake MLM’s, is not only not good for you, but potentially harmful and dangerous.
Update: Since this article has been published on my website, I get hundreds of people finding this article as a result of googling phrases such as:
Low sex drive from Visalus
Body rash from Visalus
Visalus causing headaches
Kidney stones from Visalus
Feeling pregnant and bloated from drinking Body By Vi
Headache from Visalus
The list goes on. There are people out there right now experiencing these health problems from these “health” drinks. But can health really come through a highly-processed substance not fit to be called “food?” Are Christians to believe that man can do one up on God’s own creation and create something better and healthier than the foods He created?!
*Update: 11/2/2012: Urgent Health Warning
It appears that soy-based shakes are increasing the risks of another dangerous, life-threatening condition called pulmonary embolism. Pulmonary embolism (PE) is a blockage of the main artery of the lung or one of its branches by a substance that has traveled from elsewhere in the body through the bloodstream (embolism) and is often associated with Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT).
How is this linked to soy-based shakes? PE is listed as a risk of any hormone treatment, including hormonal replacement therapy (HRT) and use of estrogen-containing oral contraceptives.
I got a message yesterday that tipped me off to the sad danger and the urgency of this problem:
There were two people I knew that were doing this [Body By Vi] program. The man (about 42 yrs old) suffered from multiple pulmonary embolisms. He had done 3 maybe more rounds of the program. I think they call them “challenges”. This afternoon he died. This program is dangerous and I am so grieved that this family is now suffering. He left a 10 yr old and an 8 yr old behind.
Pulmonary Embolisms as a result of drinking these shakes proves that,despite claims made by the company, the estrogen-mimicking isoflavones have NOT been removed.
Even if the soy was different, just the sheer amount of soy protein being consumed by those using soy protein shakes is unnaturally high and exposes dieters to problems. Anything when consumed in excess is dangerous, even water!
And if you believe the myth that Asian diets, which have excellent health benefits, are high in soy, think again:
“The total caloric intake from soy in the Chinese diet is only 1.5%. The amount of soy consumed in Asia averages only 2 teaspoons a day and up to 1/4 cup in some parts of Japan. This is certainly not the large amount that we were led to believe.” (http://www.drlam.com/opinion/soyandestrogen.asp)
Finally, I especially beg all pregnant women to avoid these shakes like the plague. There are many reasons why. Medical research proves that a woman’s risk of breast cancer largely increases with her mother’s prenatal consumption of soy. Specifically:
A high estrogenic environment in utero may increase subsequent breast cancer risk. It was therefore determined whether a maternal exposure during pregnancy to the phytoestrogen genistein, which exhibit estrogenic activities in vitro and in vivo, alters breast cancer risk among female offspring. The results indicate that in utero exposure to genistein, dose-dependently increased the incidence of breast tumors, when compared with the controls. The number of estrogen receptor binding sites was significantly elevated in the mammary glands of genistein offspring.
Oncol Rep 1999 Sep-Oct;6(5):1089-95
Low-fat, high-protein shakes such as soy-based ones also cause a vitamin A deficiency, a nutrient that is essential for proper formation of all organs.
And even if you are not pregnant but are selling these shakes to pregnant women, please consider the moral implications of this.
I know this information may not be well-received, but I pray that it is. I am not denying that it has helped many people lose weight. But as Christians, we are not to idolize our physical appearance. My goal as a nutritional counselor is to help people get healthy. Sometimes that means losing weight and sometimes it doesn’t. But when getting thin becomes our ultimate goal, we begin to see things superficially. We miss the underlying spiritual issues that caused us to get overweight and unhealthy int he first place.
But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7
(Check out my post on diets here:
No matter how much conclusive evidence comes out discussing the amazing benefits of natural foods like leafy greens with all their vitamin K, fresh fruits with all their flavanoids, and raw vegetables with all their antioxidants, it seems most people still want a quick fix. They want to be able to open a premade meal and have it be healthy.
Unfortunately, this has never worked, nor will it ever. God has designed food exactly the way it needs to be in order for it to sustain health. It takes time, effort, and major lifestyle changes in order to incorporate these foods into our lives and get rid of the foods that make up the Standard American Diet. There is no quick fix, nor will there ever be. If there was, God would already have revealed it to us. Man cannot improve on God’s creation. We would be wise to remember the story of the Tower of Babel and how God is God and we are not!
As Andrew Saul, PhD and author of Doctor Yourself says,
Change your life. If you want to get better, that is what you have to do. There is no such thing as a free lunch, a quick fix, or a magic wand to cure illness. I wish there were easy answers to people’s health questions. There aren’t. There are answers, all right, but they are not easy.
For more information on the dangers of soy, why unfermented soy (like miso, tempeh, etc.) are safe, and more, here are some pages to check out:
Soy: Too Good To Be True by Charlotte Gerson
This “Miracle Food” Has Been Linked to Brain Damage and Breast Cancer
Fermented Soy Is Only Soy Food Fit For Human Consumption
If you’ve had adverse reactions as a result of using any of these products, please take a minute to comment and share your experiences. It just may help prevent others from experiencing the same problems, or receiving an incorrect diagnosis. And if you want to become healthy, you can do it without the side effects of products like these! Email me and/or check out my Nutrition Counseling page!
Blessings of good health,