Could Tofu Be the Next Cancer Drug? Soy Shows Promise in Study


Not exactly the darling of the health food industry it once was, the soybean has fallen from grace in recent years due to the influence it has on estrogen hormone levels and the likelihood that, at least in the U.S.,  it’s genetically modified. But new research now indicates the soybean could play quite a significant role in inhibiting the growth of colon, liver and lung cancer cells.

According to recent research conducted by scientists at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville and published in the current issue of the journal Food Research International, proteins found in soybean meal—the leftover byproduct after soybean oil has been extracted from the bean—can also be high in an unsaturated omega-9 fatty acid called oleic acid. The researchers found that bioactivity from the soybean protein peptides and oleic acid to be effective at severely inhibiting the growth of specific human cancer cells. Colon cancer cell growth diminished by 73 percent, liver cancer decreased by 70 percent and lung cancer cells decreased 68 percent when exposed to the soybean meal.

“Dose response showed that the peptides had significant inhibitory effect at higher concentrations … and gradually decreased with decreased dosage,” the researchers wrote in the study, indicating promising results from higher concentrations of the active compounds in the soybeans and consistent decreases in the cancer cell growth.

Soybeans have long been indicated as a possible weapon in the fight against breast cancer in women, but some research indicates too much of the plant protein could actually cause the cancer.

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Jill Ettinger

Jill Ettinger is a Los Angeles-based journalist and editor focused on the global food system and how it intersects with our cultural traditions, diet preferences, health, and politics. She is the senior editor for sister websites and, and works as a research associate and editor with the Cornucopia Institute, the organic industry watchdog group. Jill has been featured in The Huffington Post, MTV, Reality Sandwich, and Eat Drink Better.