Eating Soy to Prevent Disease
Does soy kill the cancer or just prevent it?
Kumar: Soy stops prostate cancer from progressing. One of the characteristics of prostate cancer cells is they proliferate purposelessly, very quickly and at a higher speed and rate than normal cells. We want to stop that, and isoflavones can do that. We have seen that in a petri dish, but we want to see it in a live human. One of the other good things that a nutrient should be doing as a key note preventive agent is it should make the prostate cells die off, and isoflavones have been observed to also do that in a petri dish. We want to see whether it can happen in live humans, and this is the only way we can do it in the pre-surgical phase.
Who do you recommend should be eating soy everyday?
Kumar: Every man and every woman. We do breast cancer studies using very similar models. It is not a vitamin I yet, but it is a product that is going to be vitamin isoflavones because it is vital to prevent disease like cancer. Isoflavones have been found to do several other things that are currently being investigated. We think the process happens through the steroid hormone pathway.
Are Americans really missing the boat by not eating as much soy as the Asians?
Kumar: Totally. We consume the lowest amount of soy. Any other population that consumes isoflavones or soy products have the lowest rates of hormonal cancers that are almost an epidemic in the Western world, especially in the U.S. population. So, we really think there is a great potential here. Eating soy would be instead of taking capsules or tablets, which are not inspected by the Food and Drug Administration. We do not know whether the potent agent isoflavones is in the tablets really. We highly recommend that you take soy products, soy food, foods rich in soy or soy products that are sold in the market like soy cheese, soy burgers, and miso tofu. Incorporate these into your diet. I have to say that tofu is a tasteless curd, but if you threw it with a chicken stir fry, it tastes just like the chicken stir fry that you just threw it in. I think it absorbs the monumental flavors, so it can taste like meat. To the patients who come in complaining tofu tastes awful and who ask if they can just take a pill, I always tell them we do not know if it is as effective.
When you speak of soy, people remember it from years back when as kids they were forced to eat it. How do you get these men to change their ways and add soy in to their diet?
Kumar: We just want them to give it a try. If you go to the produce section, some places have a soy section now, and pick something that is your favorite food. If hamburgers are your favorite, then pick the soy burger that is available there and try it. Really, we work in an environment where we are treating and seeing cancer patients. An ounce of prevention is better than any amount of cure. This is a disease that is in epidemic proportions right now. Talk to a prostate cancer patient and ask him if he could have done something to prevent this even 5 percent, would he have done it? They would swear that they would do it, and that is our sales pitch. When we give soy to the patient, we usually take several products that are made with isoflavones, and we ask them to pick whichever they like. For example, some people like soy nuts.
Are there any other natural components in foods to prevent prostate cancer?
Kumar: All of us have heard about beta carotene being the top anti-oxidant, but lycopene is the most prevalent anti-oxidant found in the human serum. It is an anti-oxidant just like corticoids, and it has significant antiproliferative properties just like isoflavones. Lycopene stops the progression of prostate cancer. I think that looks very promising, and that is another study we are doing in the pre-surgical group, the cancer patients from biopsy to surgery. We are doing three doses of lycopene compared to a control population.
What should you eat to get the amount of lycopene needed to make a difference?
Kumar: It is so easy. A quarter cup of spaghetti sauce or four or five squirts of ketchup is all you need to get enough. It is more concentrated in tomato products. We know it takes more than one tomato to make a quarter cup of tomato sauce. The more concentrated it is, the more lycopene content in that product. So, any tomato products like sauces, salsa, ketchup or tomato juices are excellent. That is the Mediterranean secret we think. It is not just the red wine, but also the tomato products that they consume that makes them at lower risk for prostate cancer.
Many people just want to take a pill to fix their problem and not worry about their diet. How important are our diets really?
Kumar: Until we know that these capsules we are paying a lot of money for and are swallowing really have the potent product that we are looking for, we shouldn’t be consuming them. I am a nutritionist and a clinical dietitian. That is my craft, and I think the absorption and utilization is so much easier and better as a food product than as a capsule or a tablet. It is so easy to consume, two to three ounces of soy two to three times a week.
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