Modified Food for Allergy II: Fermenting Soy May Reduce Food Allergen

Sloane Miller Health Guide
  • This is Part Two of a 3-Part Series on Modified Foods For Food Allergies.
    Part One is about genetically modified peanuts.
    Part Three is about modified eggs. 



    Can soy fermentation reduce allergic reactions?


    Soy is one of the top eight foods that cause the most allergic responses in Americans.

    According to the AAFA, 15 proteins in soy have been found to contribute to allergies. Remember that proteins are the allergic part of any food.


    Yet, fermented soy foods are somewhat less allergenic.


    Why would this be? Basically when you ferment a food, it becomes pre-digested; the proteins are broken down. Once the proteins are broken down, the soy become more digestible and less allergenic.

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    A recent study conducted at the University of Illinois in collaboration with the Instituto de Fermentaciones Industriales in Madrid, Spain confirmed this to be true: "...fermenting soy reduces potential allergic reactions and increases the number of essential amino acids. Soy allergies currently affect only 0.5% of the population. But because soy products are used in many foods... a way to remove the allergic-reaction capability is widely sought."


    Does this mean we will see another frankenfood coming to the rescue of those with food allergies? It seems unclear from the report of this one study.


    Fermentation is a natural process, not necessarily a laboratory induced state of frankenfood-ness. Have you ever had miso soup or stir-fried tempeh? Those are both traditional products made from fermented soy. However, here in the U.S., they are not made in the traditional way but are processed, which makes them less valuable as sources of vitamins, minerals and good quality, pure protein.


    Additionally, in the current American food supply, soybeans are less "natural" than they used to be. Eighty to 90 percent of the beans planted to create soy are genetically modified. Soy and its byproducts are not only used for human and animal food but for industrial uses including diesel fuel, waterproof cement, paint, caulk, adhesive tape and leather softeners. Yes really. Read Twinkie, Deconstructed and you'll never look a soy the same way again.


    So, will laboratory fermented soy products ultimately make their way into thousands of food products that potentially cause allergies in less than 1% of the American population? Think about soy protein isolate. It's an ingredient that you'll see everywhere. According to the site, you can find soy protein isolate in: 

    • Beverage powders, infant formulas, liquid nutritional meals, and some varieties of liquid soymilk (soy milk)
    • Bottled fruit drinks
    • Power bars
    • soups and sauces
    • Meat analogs that resemble conventional foods in color, texture and taste
    • Breads and baked goods
    • Breakfast cereals
    • Weight and muscle gain products

    The pro-soy camps would say that this is all fine for your body, but other camps would say that this soy product is so highly processed that any nutrition has been completely stripped away.


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    Because soy is the basis for so many of our processed foodstuffs, is it worth trying, pouring millions of dollars into research? Would it really help?


    There is a large part of me that wants to say that Americans should just stop eating so much processed food! There is no soy protein isolate in an apple! But the reality is we that can't hide from soy, even if we eat a no processed food diet. Soy is everywhere in our lives: in shampoos, cosmetics, dishwashing soaps. Unless you are living in a cave, soy can hardly be avoided.


    What to do? Any of you with soy allergies? What do you think?

Published On: April 11, 2008