New book in Dutch

Eet vet word slank

Eet vet word slank gepubliceerd januari 2013

In dit boek lees je o.a.: * heel veel informatie ter bevordering van je gezondheid; * hoe je door de juiste vetten te eten en te drinken kan afvallen; * hoe de overheid en de voedingsindustrie ons, uit financieel belang, verkeerd voorlichten; * dat je van bewerkte vetten ziek kan worden.

Trick and Treat:
How 'healthy eating' is making us ill
Trick and Treat cover

"A great book that shatters so many of the nutritional fantasies and fads of the last twenty years. Read it and prolong your life."
Clarissa Dickson Wright

Natural Health & Weight Loss cover

"NH&WL may be the best non-technical book on diet ever written"
Joel Kauffman, PhD, Professor Emeritus, University of the Sciences, Philadelphia, PA

Soy Online Service

From Pink Pills to Phytoestrogens — spot the difference

Women who are wary of hormone replacement therapy are being turned on to ‘natural’ preparations believing that they are safe and effective. Camille Guy fears they are being sold a pup.

Womens Health Watch September/October 1998.

At the turn of the century Dr Williams Pink Pills for Pale People, three shillings a box, were touted as relieving menstrual problems. Analysed, they turned out to contain one tenth of a penny’s worth of nothing very much, coated in starch and sugar.

Middle-aged women eyeing today’s over-the-counter remedies might wonder whether they are being offered Pink Pills – or more potent nostrums. Two Auckland scientists warn that products like Red Clover Pills (and equivalent pills targeted at men with prostate problems) are not only outrageously priced, but possibly harmful. One health product manufacturer says he is ‘seriously worried’ about these profitable plant or phytoestrogen pills (his estimate of the cost of $30 month’s supply is a couple of dollars). Auckland environmental consultant and phytoestrogen researcher Dr Mike Fitzpatrick is concerned too. The phytoestrogens in red clover disrupt the endocrine system and suppress thyroid hormone synthesis, he says, as well as causing genetic damage to cells. They are also potential carcinogens.

But there is big money to be made in the hormone replacement therapy market, and natural HRT is the latest craze, he says.

‘But where is the research to back up the health claims and where are the guarantees of consumer safety? They have done less research than they would on cats and dogs if this were a veterinary medicine. If the New Zealand government is willing to let manufacturers of phytoestrogen products make medicinal claims, then those claims should at least be backed with the kind of research I hope goes into medicinals.’

But they don’t have to be. Because phytoestrogen ‘dietary supplements’ are classified as foods, not drugs, they are virtually unregulated. They can be sold that way so long as no therapeutic claims are made. Even when claims are made (in press and television advertising), the Ministry of Health seems reluctant to clamp down.

The labels on phytoestrogen supplements may bear coy messages like ‘considered valuable in balancing female hormone levels’, but other promotional material is more explicit. Often the pitch is that phytoestrogen pills are hormone replacement therapy substitutes – only natural and better. In case you don’t get the message, the products are called HRT – standing for Herbal Replacement Tablets – described as made from extracted plant substances that ‘work in harmony with the body’, that just nudge natural processes along.

Blackmores have sent out a laminated ‘clinical guide’ to GPs, suggesting that the possible clinical applications for their products include hyperlipidaemia and heart disease, cancer prevention, menopause, osteoporosis and renal disease and offering the reassurance that ‘there has been no evidence of human toxicity from individual isoflavones in the doses thus far used in human trials.’

The claim of safety is carefully phrased – and with good reason. Red clover pills are, after all, made from a variety of clover that continues to render grazing sheep infertile, less sexually receptive and more aggressive. Clover estrogens (and soy estrogens when sheep forage on that plant) can cause ovarian cysts and irreversible endometriosis in ewes, and blocked urethra, enlarged teats and lactation in wethers (castrated rams).

First alerted to the sheep problems in Australia in the 1940s, scientists came to understand that phytoestrogens serve as a plant’s natural defence against grazing animals. When plants like red clover are stressed (by drought, or even by spraying with herbicide) higher levels of estrogens are produced. By mimicking mammalian estrogens, plant estrogens diminish the fertility of predators and so protect the plants.

Phytoestrogens in clover were a curse for sheep farmers. The implications for humans were glancingly considered by scientists- but not to worry, since these plant estrogens were not a significant part of our diet. Neither were they in the 1940s. But 50 years on the phytoestrogen-laden soybean has entered the Western foodchain in a big way.

Despite the experience with sheep (and decades of worrying animal studies) not a single long term study has been undertaken on the effects of dietary phytoestrogens on humans. No one has any real idea of the chronic toxicity of these compounds. Yet over recent decades the food industry has been discreetly adding estrogenic soy to basic foodstuffs – including bread, pasta, sausages, and even frozen chicken pieces (check for the ingredient labelled ‘vegetable protein’).

The adulteration is now more overt, with phytoestrogen sold as dietary supplements, added to some breads and breakfast cereals, and soon to be put in margarine, muesli bars, biscuits and drinks. The time to take notice is overdue. Some of our daughters, particularly if vegetarian, may well be consuming plant estrogens at biologically active levels.

So just how powerful are these compounds? Is there anything to worry about? When Dr Fitzpatrick analysed processed foodstuffs for phytoestrogen levels several years ago, he thought so. In 1995 he and three other researchers warned in the New Zealand Medical Journal that soy infant formula, for instance, contains three to five times as much phytoestrogen as has been shown to disrupt the menstrual cycle of women. The scientists recommended that supermarket sales of this formula be stopped – advice not so far heeded by our health ministry, although discussion is ongoing.

Dr Fitzpatrick says his concerns about these new supplement products are shared by US FDA estrogen research director, Dr Dan Sheehan, who only last April warned against adding phytoestrogens to foodstuffs.

‘Phytoestrogens can act on different sites of the body in different ways,’ says Dr Fitzpatrick. ‘There are too many unanswered questions about them. What if a young baby gets hold of these pills? Or a young girl going through puberty? Where are the warnings?’

There is no denying these products are potent. One herbal product containing plant estrogens called Evanesce is so potent it is widely used in the US by men wanting to change sex and grow breasts. (‘I’m now into a full B… it is to the point where my wife and I know that I need to start wearing a bra’ is the testimonial of one satisfied customer.)

But quite what the effects are on middle-aged women is not so clear. Nor is it clear what dose of these products is safe to use, or what age group can use them. Even sticking to low doses is no protection, says Fitzpatrick, since scientists have little knowledge about dose-related responses in humans and there is individual variation in susceptibility.

Fitzpatrick is not reassured by reminders that the Japanese consume soy safely, saying that recent data shows their average daily phytoestrogen intake is lower than previously thought – less than the amount that an infant on soy formula consumes.

What if you are getting a lot of phytoestrogens in your diet already? By taking these pills you may be doubling the dose. Where is the warning that a vegetarian diet or even a litre of soymilk already provides enough phytoestrogen to elicit a biological response. You can be sure that there will be a level at which phytoestrogens become acutely toxic, never mind the chronic effects associated with continued daily exposure.’

Asked about the long-term effects, Fitzpatrick shrugs.

‘We just don’t know. But it was established in the 1940s and 50s that estrogens are bad news long-term. There is more awareness now that these exogenous estrogens can promote cancer and cause endocrine disruption.’

Overseas, concerned researchers and regulators warn that manufacturers are jumping the gun, seizing an apparent marketing opportunity before safety has been established.

US phytoestrogen researcher Dr Claude Hughes has warned women to consider ‘whether they or their offspring will experience any reproductive or developmental effects due to exposure to these dietary hormone-like phytochemicals.’

One US study has shown a link between tofu consumption in mid-life and dementia – possibly attributable to phytoestrogens affecting estrogen sensitive brain cells.

In 1996 a British government committee concluded that ‘the potential for phytoestrogens to adversely affect infants is of particular concern since it is possible that a hormonal imbalance in early life can permanently affect sexual development and fertility’. Both that body and the US Environmental Protection Agency have called for further research on these ‘endocrine disruptors’.

Recently the British Medical Research Council’s Institute of Environment and Health researchers reviewed the scientific literature, looking only at possible phytoestrogen benefits (reasoning that adverse effects were already well established). Their 170 page report released last November concluded that although some studies suggest some phytoestrogen containing foods may have health benefits, ‘almost no evidence exists to link these effects directly to phytoestrogens’.

As for taking phytoestrogens in pill form, even an optimistic phytoestrogen researcher like Dr Kenneth Setchell warns against them, saying ‘the potential dangerous effects from self-induced megadosing are a concern’.

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Fundamental and Applied Toxicology 1996; 29: 1-17,

Clinical chemistry 1997; 43: 850,

Reproductive Toxicology 1989; 3: 81-90,

Environmental Health Perspectives 1988; 78: 171-175,

PSEBM 1995; 208: 92-97,

Institute for Environment and Health Nov 1997 Report to MAFF on Phytoestrogens in the Human Diet,

Lancet 1997; 350: 23-27,

NZMJ 24 May 1995; 208-209

Statement by committee on toxicity of chemicals in food, consumer products and environment (UK) 1996



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