Many are turning to soy in place of meat in their diets.
Is soy healthy?
01:01 - Source: CNN

Story highlights

There have been numerous conflicting studies on the health benefits of soy

Here's a look at the history of soy in America and where experts now stand

The latest research finds that soy is safe for breast cancer patients, and may be beneficial

CNN  — 

Tofu or snafu? Soy has become a big component of a plant-based diet, but debates have raged for decades over whether soy really produces certain health benefits.

Some studies have suggested that consuming soybeans and soy-based products such as tofu benefits cardiovascular health, weight loss and the prevention of certain cancers.

On the other hand, some studies have suggested that certain components of soy might be linked to stimulating the growth of breast cancer cells. In addition, soy is among the more common food allergies.

What about soy’s benefit for reducing hot flashes? There have been conflicting study results surrounding that too, leaving many people scratching their heads about whether soy is good, bad or obsolete.

Here’s a look at the controversial history of soy – and what the science now says about it.

1940s: The root of the soy dispute

Soy contains a naturally occurring estrogenic compound called isoflavone, which seems to have stirred a storm of confusion around how soy impacts public health.

“Isoflavones are considered phytoestrogens. In other words, plant estrogens,” said Dr. Omer Kucuk, a medical oncologist at Emory University’s Winship Cancer Institute, who has studied the benefits of soy isoflavones.

Isoflavones are a part of a larger group of compounds called flavonoids, and “there are many, many flavonoids in nature,” Kucuk said.