Marie Oser is a best-selling author, healthy lifestyle expert and environmental advocate with a focus on nutrition and its role in disease prevention. Marie is a food and health writer and has authored five books, including the new book The Skinny on Soy. She is also President, Host and Executive Producer of VegTV, a video production company producing original content for TV and the Internet. VegTV has been producing, promoting and distributing healthy lifestyle videos since 2000.
Chic Vegan: What motivated you to become vegan? Was it an overnight switch or more gradual shift?
Marie Oser: I have been vegetarian since 1971 and vegan since 1990. Initially, I went from being a carnist to vegetarian in three weeks. Removing first cow, then chicken and finally fish flesh… a week at a time. My motivation at that time was “Diet for a Small Planet” by Frances Moore Lappe. It just made sense.
Nineteen years later I went vegan overnight. A series of events conspired to cause me to reassess my diet and lifestyle. I left a high stress position in television and in a routine medical checkup discovered that my cholesterol level was 200 mg/dL… considered borderline, but pretty shocking to me at the time.
I immediately cut out all remaining animal products and went vegan. While health concerns provided the impetus to make the change, I found that the more distance you place between yourself and anything else, the more objective you become. I was appalled to learn about the horrific cruelty inherent in the dairy industry and have been an advocate for all things vegan ever since.
CV: Can you tell us a little bit about VegTV?
MO: VegTV is a video production company producing, promoting and distributing original vegan lifestyle content since 2000. Once a half-hour program that ran nationally on the Healthy Living Channel for three years, VegTV currently hosts about 1,000 videos on nine channels, featuring celebrity interviews, cooking segments, raw foods, new plant-based products, and interviews with prominent medical and nutrition experts. I am host and executive producer.
CV: What inspired you to write The Skinny on Soy?
MO: There has been a strident campaign to discredit soy for more than 15 years fueled by a small group of people who have made a cottage industry out of bashing soy. Astounding claims began to surface about soy, creating anxiety and apprehension among many health-conscious consumers. Shocking assertions concerning infertility, sex organ abnormalities, Alzheimer’s disease and thyroid problems have produced a great deal of confusion among consumers. Having written articles refuting these claims, I decided to address the issue in book form and interviewed numerous research scientists and other experts with extensive experience with soy for this project.
CV: Why is soy milk a healthier option than cows’ milk?
MO: Both cow milk and soymilk contain similar amounts of protein and all nine essential amino acids necessary for sustaining life. However, soymilk strengthens bones, whereas consuming cow milk weakens the bones.
Although, cow milk contains calcium, much of it is not bioavailable for the human body. Further, the sulphur-based protein in milk, as in all animal products makes the body acidic.
That causes an immediate biological reaction or correction, in that the body leaches calcium from the bones in order to balance out the acidity in the blood, which is then expelled through the kidneys and results in a net loss of calcium… which overworks the kidneys and is actually a cause of osteoporosis.
The evidence that calcium in milk does not protect against the incidence of osteoporosis has been replicated in numerous studies. For example, in a twelve-year Harvard Nurses’ Health Study of seventy-eight thousand women, those who drank milk three times a day actually broke more bones than women who rarely drank milk. 1
A number of studies indicate that there are compounds in soy that benefit bone health. One such study, published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, showed that soy food intake was associated with a significantly lower risk of bone fracture, particularly among early postmenopausal women. 2
Six reasons why soy milk trumps cow milk:
Cow milk provides more than nine times as much saturated fat as soy beverages, therefore cow milk is far more likely to contribute to coronary heart disease.
Soy beverages provide more than ten times as much essential fatty acid as cow milk, and therefore soy milk provides a much higher level and far healthier source of these essential fatty acids.
Soy beverages are cholesterol-free, while cow milk contains thirty-four milligrams of cholesterol in an eight-ounce cup, which means that consuming cow milk is not the best choice for your heart and cardiovascular system.
Soymilk lowers both total and LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels in the bloodstream, while consuming cow milk actually has the opposite effect: raising both total and LDL cholesterol.
Soymilk contains numerous protective phytochemicals that may protect against chronic diseases such as heart disease and osteoporosis. Cow milk contains no phytochemicals.
Men who consume one to two servings of soymilk per day are 70 percent less likely to develop prostate cancer than men who don’t. 3.
CV: Are the phytoestrogens in soy harmful to one’s health?
MO:Soybeans are rich in phytoestrogens, which are also known as isoflavones. These substances are one thousand times less potent than human estrogen and when you consume soy milk, tofu, tempeh, edamame or any soyfood, even veggie burgers the phytoestrogens in soy compete with human estrogen in the body.
Phytoestrogens may act as mimics of estrogen. When phytoestrogens occupy the cell, normal estrogens cannot. Plant estrogens do not eliminate all of estrogen’s effects, but they do minimize them, apparently reducing not only breast cancer risk and menstrual symptoms, but also other sex organ related cancers as well, such as
cancer of the prostate.
There is no basis in fact to support the notion that consuming soy will increase estrogen levels in the body, causing cancer or feminizing characteristics, in fact the opposite is the case.
1. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Bone Health and
Osteoporosis: A Report of the Surgeon General. Rockville, MD: U.S.
Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Surgeon
2. Xianglan Zhang, MD, MPH; Xiao-Ou Shu, MD, PhD; Honglan Li, MD; Gong
Yang, MD, MPH; Qi Li, MS, MD; Yu-Tang Gao, MD; Wei Zheng, MD, PhD.
“Prospective Cohort Study of Soy Food Consumption and Risk of Bone
Fracture Among Postmenopausal Women.” Arch Intern
3. “Response To Misleading Article About Soy In Mothering
Magazine.” John Robbins www.foodrevolution.org/mothering.htm.