Sunday, August 29, 2004


A recent news item on Israeli TV said that a number of children, boys and girls alike, have become sexually mature at a very young age. The youngest is a girl who began to menstruate at the age of two. The culprit is tentatively believed to be the consumption of soy and soy products.

Israel, as I have mentioned, is the country whose per capita rate of vegetarianism for religious reasons is second only to India. (Judaism does not prescribe vegetarianism, as does Hinduism and other religions indigenous to India, but because of the problems of kashrut in mass farming and marketing many Israeli Jews choose not to eat meat. Some Israelis choose not to eat meat for moral and/or reasons.)

We in Israel consume a great deal of soy products: roasted soy beans, soy drink, tofu, tempe, meatless "burgers", "franks", "schnitzel", "ice-cream" and ground soy that resembles ground meat, to mention a few, are all staples of the Israeli diet. Even non-vegetarians consume these products regularly.

It has long been known that, because soy contains an entirely naturually-occurring estrogen-like compound, middle-aged women can stave off the unpleasant symptoms that accompany menopause by consuming about a cup of soy beans or soy-based foods a day. The advantages to coping with menopausal symptoms by consuming soy products are many: soy is nutritious, soy does not cause uterine or breast cancer as does synthetic hormone replacement therapy, neither does consuming soy cause the menstrual period to begin again, as does hormone replacement therapy. All this is well and good.

However, it may be that the hormone-like compounds in soy can cause premature sexual maturity in children who eat large amounts of soy products. This is highly undesirable for many reasons, not the least of which is that growth is affected by the premature reaching of sexual maturity.

Research is now being conducted to confirm, or disprove, he preliminary findings and suspicions that soy is the culprit in these cases.


My son bought a TV (we didn't have one before that) and was watching the news. I was curious about what was on the news and sat down to watch with him. The item was discussed for a few minutes and a couple of specialists were interviewed. It seems strange to me, though. There are cultures, like the Chinese, who eat a lot of soy as well. They, after all, developed tofu (dhofu). I've never heard of a phenomenon like this in other cultures where soy is eaten in large amounts. It could be the way that the soy is being processed in Israel, if the soy is the culprit at all.
A neighbor went to her daughter's twin son's brit (circumcision) today. It is a medically recognized phenomenon that in Tzfat there are an inordinate number of naturally occurring multiple births. My husband and I were at a brit for triplets a few months ago. The staff of the maternity ward of the Rivka Ziv Hospital in Tzfat have noted that the number of naturally occurring multiple births is far higher in Tzfat than in the general population. The Bible mentions that multiple births were common among the Jews in Egypt and of course Rivka is known to have been four years old when she married Yitzchak. The accounts of her are hardly childlike. It may be that there is something about this area of the world that causes unusual s3xual development and fertility. It seems that we are going back to the way we used to be. However, this does not explain why there are more naturally occurring multiple births in Tzfat than elsewhere in Israel. Neither is Tzfat the closest area in Israel to Egypt and I have not heard about a large number of multiple births in the southernmost part of the country.
I'm not convinced that the soy is the only factor involved. It may trigger a latent unusual fertility in us, but given the fact that this phenomenon is not seen outside of Israel in vegetarian societies, except in very rare cases, the final word certainly is not in on what is transpiring and why. There are very young girls who give birth in India occassionally, but the youngest ever recorded was in Brazil, hardly a vegetarian soy-eating society. There are a lot of ???s surrounding this phenomenon.
It's not entirely impossible that this is a fabrication of the meat industry that feels threatened by the growing vegetarianism in Israel.

Doreen Ellen Bell-Dotan, Tzfat

Thursday, August 26, 2004


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Doreen Ellen Bell-Dotan, Tzfat, Israel