Tofu causes dementia

i-75fa6f7cebb4145668724f37f5a52b36-steve_icon_medium.jpgIt seems that vegetarians are screwed on multiple levels, they get called hippies by me AND they might be at an increased risk of dementia in old age. The study recently published in the journal Dementias and Geriatric Cognitive Disorders focused on a number of elderly Indonesians who live across a wide range of areas in Java. They discovered that people who ate tofu at least once a day (which is classified as high consumption) had a statistically higher chance of showing dementia. So what could be causing this higher rate? According to BBC News:
i-02b87922dc61185ab13402a0d8abfd5b-fried-tofu-ck-686207-l.jpg

Soy products are rich in micronutrients called phytoestrogens, which mimic the impact of the female sex hormone oestrogen.

There is some evidence that they may protect the brains of younger and middle-aged people from damage - but their effect on the ageing brain is less clear.

The latest study suggests phytoestrogens - in high quantity - may actually heighten the risk of dementia.

Lead researcher Professor Eef Hogervorst said previous research had linked oestrogen therapy to a doubling of dementia risk in the over-65s.

She said oestrogens - and probably phytoestrogens - tended to promote growth among cells, not necessarily a good thing in the ageing brain.

Alternatively, high doses of oestrogens might promote the damage caused to cells by particles known as free radicals.

Then again all this might be wrong and you damn hippies have nothing at all to worry about, evidently formaldehyde is used in Indonesia as a preservative. Wow.. getting high while eating tofu - who woulda thunk it!

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[i]Then again all this might be wrong and you damn hippies have nothing at all to worry about, evidently formaldehyde is used in Indonesia as a preservative. [/i]

Our meat-is-murder friends should probably remain concerned considering similar findings have been found in a different study on a different population:

http://www.jacn.org/cgi/content/full/19/2/242

By tofu madness (not verified) on 05 Jul 2008 #permalink

The study was only conducted in one remote location. The study doesn't help verify that general claim about tofu. It's weird how people would isolate tofu when they study dementia. Those are probably the people who thinks tofu is weird or they've never eaten it before.

But if you're eating tofu you're probably not eating meat or fish. All sorts of studies on fat consumption and decreased risk of dementia.

How genetically and culturally diverse are these populations? (Japan, where the second study was done, has a pretty much ethnically homogeneous population, no?)

At any rate, everything I've ever seen about the relative benefits and hazards of specific food and drink items has convinced me that the more varied one's diet is, the better.

By Julie Stahlhut (not verified) on 06 Jul 2008 #permalink

What about the people of China who have been eating tofu (in addition to meats and fish) for who knows when quite possibly several centuries? Tofu 'seems' to be a staple that evolved with these Asian cultures. And the Chinese doesn't seem to have any problems living for a long time.

About old age and dementia, I don't understand how people still can't accept the consequences of old age. Why do people want to stay fragile and wrinkly for as long as possible?

It seems to me that this was a small sampling in a relatively small area.

Others have praised the benefits of tofu.

When i go to Indonesia, I will not eat tofu

However until them I will eat right,(Mediterranean diet) not smoke and keep mentally and physically active
by Susan Berg author of
Adorable Photographs of Our Baby-Meaningful Mind Stimulating Activities and More for the Memory Challenged, Their Loved Ones and Involved Professionals a book for those with dementia and an excellent resource for caregivers and healthcare professionals. http://www.alzheimersideas.com http://blog.seattlepi.nwsource.com/dementiacare/
http://dementiaviews.blogspot.com
http://activitiesdirector.blogspot.com

In a former life, while trying out a low-carb diet, I read (in a low-carb diet book) that studies on Japanese and Chinese subjects have shown a link between their low (relative to American) animal protein diets to strokes. So this just adds salt to the wound, I guess.

Of course, we can't forget about tofu making people gay (go ahead and google it). As a hetero Chinese-American man with a child, I've always wondered how the people who linked tofu consumption with gayness reconciled that whole "fifth of the world population" thing. But I guess I'll turn queer once the dementia hits, if the stroke doesn't get me first.

I think ringo makes a good point. If someone eats tofu daily, odds are they are not eating other sources of protein like fish and/or meat. Fatty acids that are found fish have been shown to be quite beneficial to brain function.

The article was pointing at Indonesians, but it was probably directed at Americans or the UK. Still, it is not like Indonesians weren't eating meat or fish while they are eating tofu.

So no one's read the paper? Can't find a full text version (or rather: my subscription doesn't cover it) but the abstract doesn't reveal a whole lot about the results, e.g. there's no context for the 95% CIs they give (one of them has a boundary that's 0.00 and the p value is reported as < 0.05 - could be borderline?). Needless to say, oestrogen != phytoestrogen, since the latter often preferentially bind to ER beta, as opposed to alpha at low concentrations.

Any chance the dementia could just be a natural consequence of living longer due to being a vegetarian?

Correllation, as we all know, is not causation.

People should just accept the consequences of old age. Why do people want to rid the diseases that come with old age? Do you really want to stay wrinkly and fragile, in addition to barely being able to walk, while all your muscles are deteriorating?

There are many vegetarians who eat little or no tofu. An example are vegetarians in India. They eat a lot of dal, but no tofu.
Second, I don't think you can extrapolate that these people were not eating meat and fish, just because they ate tofu. And, how much tofu did they actually eat?
They are too many unknowns here to draw any conclusions. I am still going to eat my once-a-month tofu.

Hippies? What is this, the 70s? What about Asian Americans--they're the ones eating most of the tofu in this country, not 'hippies' who have no idea how to make tofu taste good.

Sheesh, this is diverse 2008 america, don't write as if the only people who matter are white.

This should be easy to check out since one can compare this one data point to possible effects seen in populations in China, Korea and especially Japan ... all countries with high consumption of tofu.

By Respectful Dissent (not verified) on 07 Jul 2008 #permalink

Did anyone actually read the journal article? The correlation is pretty low(.2 ish) (this was a correlation study, not a controlled experiment), and was only conducted in a study of Indonesians. To make conclusions about this "finding" at this point is ridiculous.

I've long suspected that "soy" is contributing to 'hormonal' abnormalities.

Soy is an ingredient in an amazing amount of our environment --- vinyl/linoleum, plastics, food, etc. I wonder how much of 'aberrant development' (remember frogs with extra legs?) is due not to pesticides, but soy by-product becoming substantial in our environment?

Can anyone cite any research?

Someone else mentioned there's one other study that corroborates this. One???? One other is all you can come up with?????

Meat eaters might want to read "The China Study" to see an overwhelming mass of evidence and hundreds of studies showing the damage caused to our bodies by eating animal products.

I don't eat tofu, but give the choice between that and meat or cheese, I'd happily take my chances with the soy.

By snarkyspice (not verified) on 07 Jul 2008 #permalink

Maybe it was dementia that caused them to eat tofu at least once a day.

Damn hippies? It's not just meat-is-murder. Meat consumption is unsustainable, raises food prices, wreaks havoc on aquatic ecosystems, causes a tremendous amount of pollution and antibiotic use at factory farms may just create a super bug for us.

If you're not at least trying to reduce your meat consumption to 2-3 meals a week, then shame on you! ;)

Don't forget to buy local, organic and free range!

Long time reader, first time commenting. Don't see mine. Are they screened or did I screw up? We'll find out in just a moment!

It's not just meat-is-murder. Meat consumption is unsustainable, raises food prices, wreaks havoc on aquatic ecosystems, causes a tremendous amount of pollution and antibiotic use at factory farms may just create a super bug for us.

If you're not at least trying to reduce your meat consumption to 2-3 meals a week, then shame on you! ;)

Don't forget to buy local, organic and free range!

Just sayin' -- "damn hippies"!

You repeat a common misconception which I'd like to correct. You cannot get high off of formaldehyde. A common street term for PCP is 'embalming fluid', and sometimes small quantities of formaldehyde are added to it as part of the drug's, er, brand, but formaldehyde itself is extremely toxic and not in any way pleasant to be exposed to.

It certainly says something about the effects of PCP that people are more likely to smoke it if they think it's formaldehyde. That shit is nasty.

By Bram Cohen (not verified) on 11 Jul 2008 #permalink

Keep in mind that this same study independently found an association between tempeh consumption and *improved* cognitive performance. That's a fact that the media seem to be largely brushing under the rug. Tempeh actually contains more isoflavones ("phytoestrogens") than does tofu! So . . . any thoughts???

"Damn hippies? It's not just meat-is-murder. Meat consumption is unsustainable, raises food prices, wreaks havoc on aquatic ecosystems, causes a tremendous amount of pollution and antibiotic use at factory farms may just create a super bug for us."

Excellent points. In Lappe's book "Diet for a Small Planet" (which I read over 20 years ago-- surely the science has been updated since) it was pointed out that chickens produced more protein per gram of grain than cows. Of course, if one chooses to eat cows, one might possibly be more earth-friendly by choosing grass fed cows. And one is likely to get better nutrition, as well, if you believe Micheal Pollan "The Omnivores Dilemma".

I'm a lacto-ovo vegetarian myself, for ethical reasons, but I eat way more beans than soy (tofu). I DEFINATELY would like to see this tofu/dimentia thing sorted out, though. I wonder if it has anything in common with Exxon's climate "research". We live in cynical times.

But if you're eating tofu you're probably not eating meat or fish. All sorts of studies on fat consumption and decreased risk of dementia.

Well this is good news. I'll remember to point here when I'm braising that Brasato al Barolo and the wife says we should be having tofu. I'll just remind her of my family's history of Alzheimer's and dementia.

Why risk it??? You're gambling with your brain which is impossible to replace. Processed products made from the soy bean is a new concept (since the early 1900's). Most of the processed products were creatd by governments to cheaply curve hunger and increase productivity and profits. Do not eat products made from soy. Only eat the bean in moderation.

Help, we have a spam-bot!

Unlike tofu, tempeh is fermented, if that's the right word--worked on by bacteria that produce vitamin B12. It's one of the few micronutrients that's hard to get without animal products or supplementation. But in tempeh, the bacteria provide it. And B12 prevents at least one kind of nerve degeneration that comes on over years. So it might also protect against dementia.

We need more facts before jumping to conclusions.

Personally, I like the big correlation study in California that showed that people who ate tomatoes regularly were less likely to get cancer. Now eat your tempeh & tomatoes. Other good things: a variety of foods, deep-colored vegetables (dark green & yellow), skins, fibre, washing them first to get the pesticides off.

And here's one... avoid chocolate; it's got lead in it.

Great article. Has anyone tried any supplements or products. I heard about this thing called focus fast but i have yet to try it. here is the website for anyone that can offer some info:

http://www.focusfast.com

By Jim Dougal (not verified) on 28 Jun 2009 #permalink

With all the crap that Americans eat along with the chemicals found in our homes, water, and air, there are people actually concerned about the effects of tofu?!?

By Christina (not verified) on 18 Nov 2009 #permalink

I don't buy this article.I just don't believe it is Tofu that is the culprit because it isn't a problem in other countries that use it much more.FYI about formaldehyde,the liver sees alcohol as a toxin and makes it into a lesser toxin =formaldehyde when large amounts of alcohol are consumed there are larger amounts of formaldehyde in the blood that why the headache and "hangover".Also dont give a baby boy a bath with lavender it stimulates estrogen production.

This is kind of funny :) You have a point, with all the crap Americans, Australians and Brits eat (aspartame, sugar, chemicals in foods, saturated and trans fats) now tofu is to blame for dementia.

This is a "science" blog? Drawing conclusions from this fuzzy, isolated study is pretty absurd, especially considering the mountains of research done on the negative impacts of many animal products. Anything to reduce guilt, I guess.