Why Asian Women Get Less Breast Cancer

Why Asian Women Get Less Breast Cancer. Healthy Living Magazine

Why Asian Women Get Less Breast Cancer. Healthy Living Magazine

A staple of Asiatic diets is soy, one of the richest sources of phytoestrogens. There is evidence that soy is protective and diets with crucifers and soy, both common to Asia, may be most protective, says an article in Scientific American. Japanese women eating a traditional low-fat diet rich in soy foods, such as tofu, miso, aburage (thin-sliced, fried tofu) and koridofu (freeze dried) soybeans and boiled beans, were reported to have concentrations of phytoestrogens in their urine up to 1,000x higher than American and Finnish women.

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Estrogens found in plants belong to the flavonoid family, the pigments in plants responsible for the colors of flower petals. Known as phytoestrogens, select members of the flavonoid family provide raw materials from which weak yet high impact estrogens are formed in the gut by intestinal bacterial. These plant estrogens are why some women, particularly in Asian nations with traditional diets, have the lowest rates of breast cancer.

Plant estrogens form “good” estrogen that is estrogenic just enough to keep the body feminine, but which displaces much more powerful and toxic, sometimes synthetic forms of estrogen from breast cell receptors. These toxic forms of estrogen can be formed in women’s bodies through bacterial fermentation; others may be absorbed from foods contaminated with estrogenic pesticides or other chemicals; American beef products usually come from cattle given anabolic steroids such as estrogen; and cosmetics transmit xenoestrogens via skin absorption especially from phthalates and paraben preservatives. These forms of estrogen are toxic to reproductive tissues and linked with women’s cancers.

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In contrast, one of the most well-studied phytoestrogens is equol. It is 1,000x weaker than estradiol, an animal-based hormone. Equol blocks estradiol from reaching breast receptors. This limits its interactions with DNA.

colorful estrogen

All estrogens occupy the receptors on breast cells and other reproductive tissues and influence genetic expression. But not all estrogens are the same. Women’s bodies can produce toxic and less toxic forms of estrogen both internally and from eating foods.

what to eat

Tofu is a source of soy-based phytoestrogen and available as faux hot dogs, bacon, cheese and yogurt.

Miso is a broth made from fermented soybean paste. Soy milk, tofu, tempeh, textured vegetable protein and soybeans (edamame) provide phytoestrogens.

“Regardless of the soy product consumed the majority... of the literature reports indicate [a positive] effect, [including] inhibiting tumor growth.”

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When shopping for soy foods, avoid purchasing those containing textured vegetable protein unless organic. The alcohol extraction process could result in reduced levels of phytoestrogens. Moreover, nonorganic soy beans are contaminated with pesticide residues. Purchase organic soy foods such as tofu and soy milk whenever possible.

Avoid uncooked soy beans. These have toxic chemicals. Cooking destroys them. Avoid feeding excess amounts of soy products to babies and children.

To approximate the estrogen activity Asian women receive from soy, eat 8 to 10 ounces of tofu foods daily, equivalent to one low-calorie meal.

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ReferencesAdlercreutz H, et al. Dietary phyto-oestrogens and the menopause in Japan. Lancet, May 16, 1992; 339:1233. Cassidy A, et al. Biological effects of a diet of soy protein rich in isoflavones on the menstrual cycle of premenopausal women.AmJClinNutr, 1994; 60: 333- 340. Davis DL, Bradlow, HL. Can environmental estrogens cause breast cancer? SciAmer, Oct 1, 1995. Hendrich S, et al. Neither diet selection nor type of soy food significantly affect bioavailability of isoflavones fed in a single meal to young adult females. Abstract. First International Symposium on the Role of Soy in Preventing and Treating Chronic Disease, Mesa, AZ Feb 20-23, 1994. Hawrylewicz EJ. Soy and experimental cancer: animal studies. James V, James R. The Toxicity of Soybeans and Their Related Products. Scientific Reports Laboratory Analyses Field Observations, 1994, p. 21. Kaldas RS, Hughes CL. Reproductive and general metabolic effects of phytoestrogens in mammals. Reprod Toxicol, 1989; 3:81-89. Liener IE. Possible adverse effects of soybean anticarcinogens. First International Symposium on the Role of Soy in Preventing and Treating Chronic Disease. Mesa, AZ. Feb 20-23, 1994. Pratt S. Body and soy. Chicago Tribune, Aug 16, 1995: sec. 7-3.
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