President-elect Barack Obama is being asked to intervene in the state he represented in the U.S. Senate to halt a prison “feeding program” that is causing health problems for inmates, according to a nutrition organization.
In an open letter to Obama, Sally Fallon Morell, president of the Weston A. Price Foundation, said the existing procedures are “poisoning” inmates.
Obama, Morell wrote, should “focus on a grave injustice taking place in the prisons of your home state, namely, a prison diet that is slowly killing the inmates assigned to the Illinois Department of Corrections.
“This is a diet based largely on soy protein powder and soy flour. As you stated on last night’s 60 Minutes Program, America does not condone torture. I think you would agree that what is happening in the Illinois prisons is a form of torture,” Fallon wrote.
Soy products have been in the news in recent months after a new study from Harvard indicated that consumption of soy lowers sperm count.
The study suggested confirmation of a series of reports documented by WND columnist Jim Rutz, who described soy’s “feminizing” effect on men.
According to a report from Reuters, the study was done by Jorge Chavarro of the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, whose work appeared in the journal Human Reproduction.
It reportedly is the largest study of humans to look at the relationship between semen quality and a plant form of the female sex hormone estrogen known as phytoestrogen, which is plentiful in soy-rich foods.
Now comes the Price Foundation letter to Obama, which states that soy protein and soy flour are toxic, “especially in large amounts.”
“The U.S. Food and Drug Administration lists 288 studies on its database showing the toxicity of soy. Numerous studies show that soy consumption leads to nutrient deficiencies, digestive disorders, endocrine disruption and thyroid problems,” the letter said.
WND contacted officials with the Illinois Department of Corrections, but officials could not comment on the claims immediately.
The Price Foundation letter said “even the most ardent supporters of soy, such as Dr. Mark Messina, warn against consuming more than about 20 grams of soy protein per day.”
However, the inmates in Illinois are fed up to 100 grams per day – beef and chicken by-product mixtures containing 60-70 percent soy, fake soy meats and cheese, “even soy added to baked goods,” the letter said.
The soy products are produced by Archer Daniels Midland, according to the Price Foundation, but ADM officials did not return a WND call requesting comment.
The Price Foundation said ADM “contributed heavily to the campaign of [Illinois Gov.] Rod Blagojevich. The change from a diet based largely on beef to one based on soy happened in 2003, when Mr. Blagojevich began his first term as governor.”
Morell said her office has heard from “dozens” of Illinois inmates pleading for help.
“Almost all suffer from serious digestive disorders, such as diarrhea or painful constipation, vomiting, irritable bowel syndrome and sharp pains,” she said. “… One reason for these problems is the high oxalic acid content of soy – no food is higher in oxalic acid than soy protein isolate, which can contain … at least six times higher than the amount found in typical diets.”
Oxalic acid, the letter said, is associated with kidney stones, can disrupt heart functions, replace bone marrow cells and impair nerve functions.
“When the prisoners seek medical treatment, they are told that soy does not cause the problems they are experiencing. Even those who vomit or pass out immediately after eating soy cannot get an order for a soy-free diet. They are told: ‘If the soy disagrees with you, don’t eat it. Buy food from the commissary,’” Morell told Obama.
“It is said that a nation is judged on the way it treats its prisoners,” Morell wrote in her letter. “The American prison system is predicated on the premise that criminals can be rehabilitated. To feed prisoners a diet that can permanently ruin their health robs them of any opportunity for rehabilitation, renders them unfit for normal life when they are released, and will impose an unnecessary burden on the state’s medical services.
“It constitutes a medical experiment and amounts to cruel and unusual punishment and must be stopped,” she wrote.
“Now, I’m a health-food guy, a fanatic who seldom allows anything into his kitchen unless it’s organic. I state my bias here just so you’ll know I’m not anti-health food,” Rutz wrote.
“The dangerous food I’m speaking of is soy. Soybean products are feminizing, and they’re all over the place. You can hardly escape them anymore.
“I have nothing against an occasional soy snack. Soy is nutritious and contains lots of good things. Unfortunately, when you eat or drink a lot of soy stuff, you’re also getting substantial quantities of estrogens,” he continued.
“Estrogens are female hormones. If you’re a woman, you’re flooding your system with a substance it can’t handle in surplus. If you’re a man, you’re suppressing your masculinity and stimulating your ‘female side,’ physically and mentally,” he wrote. “In fetal development, the default is being female. All humans (even in old age) tend toward femininity. The main thing that keeps men from diverging into the female pattern is testosterone, and testosterone is suppressed by an excess of estrogen.
“If you’re a grownup, you’re already developed, and you’re able to fight off some of the damaging effects of soy. Babies aren’t so fortunate. Research is now showing that when you feed your baby soy formula, you’re giving him or her the equivalent of five birth control pills a day. A baby’s endocrine system just can’t cope with that kind of massive assault, so some damage is inevitable. At the extreme, the damage can be fatal.”
Many who wrote reflected the same concerns included in a PRNewswire statement from the Soyfoods Association of North America.
The organization called Chavarro’s work a “small scale, preliminary study.”
“This study is confounded by many issues, thus I feel the results should be viewed with a great deal of caution,” warned Dr. Tammy Hedlund, a researcher in prostate cancer prevention from the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center in the Soyfoods Association statement.
“Chavarro’s study conflicts with the large body of U.S. government and National Institute of Health-sponsored human and primate research, in which controlled amounts of isoflavones from soy were fed and no effect on quantity, quality or motility of sperm were observed,” the trade group said.
Read all of Rutz’s columns on soy for the whole story: