Why are we so shy about soy?

By Lisa

Hey, I’ll be the first to tell you that the internet is like the Wild, Wild West! It can be a great place to find information and an even better place to find a whole bunch of opinions. These days, you can find opinions on just about any topic under the sun. You can even find opinions about the sun and perhaps a few opinions still insisting that the sun revolves around the earth!

We hope that you’ve come to trust that we do our best to find the most reliable data we can, and when it comes to health and nutrition, we always seek doctor level opinions on topics we cover.

Over the last year or so, we’ve made many comments on why there are better protein options than soy as the primary source of protein.  As usual, we’ve posed this question to several different doctors and nutritionists and the fact is, they don’t even agree amongst themselves.  Yet, I’m getting more and more questions as to why we feel soy should be avoided and I owe it to you to share the results of my own research.

I have personally chosen not to use any products for any animals in my care where soy is a primary ingredient.  I do on occasion, use products where soy is not a significant ingredient.  You can tell something about all products by the order in which ingredients are listed.  If soy is listed in the top three, it is likely a primary ingredient. If soy is down on the list, it is a minor ingredient.

Fact is, soy is a much cheaper source of protein than any animal based proteins.  Because of this, a great deal of money has been spent over the years marketing soy as a miracle product. It is even implied, if not directly stated, that it is even better than animal protein, and this is where I have problem with the types of marketing campaigns that sometimes take place.  Who is it better for?  Is it better for the company selling the soy or for the consumer?  Clearly it’s better for the companies in the soy business, and I think consumers are being a bit hoodwinked on the true value of soy as a primary source of protein.

I’ve read some mind boggling technical information on soy over the last couple of years, and I’m not going to inundate you with all of that today.  My job here is to try and summarize what I find to be the best reasons to avoid soy in pet foods.

One of the big claims of the soy industry is that it has been used for thousands of years by Asian cultures (and hey, look how healthy they are!).  But the fact is that the Asians use soy in a fermented form and often as a condiment.  Asians do not historically use soy in the forms it is being incorporated into Western food products today. Soy is not, nor has ever been, a primary staple in the Asian culture. So this whole comparison is iffy at best.

My main concern is with the levels of phytoestrogen found in soy. Estrogen is, of course, a female hormone.  Excessive hormones in a diet can have undesirable long term side effects.  Soy products may be great for a middle aged lady, such as myself.  But do you really want to increase the hormone ingestion of young and developing animals?  Pregnant animals?  Male animals?  This is the part that causes the most concern.  I have read many published studies, so if your curiosity is peaked, then please google side effects of soy. There is a lot available on the internet about side effects in both humans and captive animals.

Now as I started off saying in the beginning of this article, the internet is like the Wild, Wild West!  I’ve found articles referring to studies claiming such things as bone deformity, immune system disorders, lowered sperm counts, infertility, premature maturation and the list goes on.  So at this point, I have to ask myself “Self: this stuff might be true or it might not be true, but why take the risk?  Wouldn’t it just be in the animals’ best interests to simply avoid soy?” And my personal answer is a resounding, “Yes!”

I can’t blame food manufacturers for taking steps to keep their costs as low as possible, but the potential price to health cannot be justified.  Soy, wheat and other grains are often used as inexpensive alternatives to human grade sources of animal proteins and I personally think this is unacceptable, especially seeing that these products are not getting to the consumer at much better prices. Hey, if you want to save money, let everyone save money, right?

There are other controversies surrounding soy that I’ve not even come close to covering.  For example, there are claims that soy is high in phytic acid, which can block the uptake of essential minerals. And there are controversies on whether or not soy contains all essential amino acids (does it compare equally to animal protein?).

The soy industry is huge, and like many huge industries, the detractors will come out in full force.  I felt compelled to give you a reasonable basis to begin your own review of soy so you can make good decisions for your pet’s health.

It is not my nature to be extreme about anything, and as I said before, if soy is a minor ingredient, I’m unlikely to let that influence me a lot.  But if soy is the primary ingredient in a frequently used food product, I’m going to avoid that choice any way I can because I just don’t think it’s worth the risk.

Several years ago, we covered a different controversy concerning grapes in much the same way.  My bottom line is simple.  Why take the chance when there are really good, healthful alternatives?  It’s not like we don’t have choices in the matter!

Go Ahead and Share that Turkey, 
But pass on the stuffing and chocolates! 

By Lisa

It’s been interesting this year.  In our ten years of raising sugar gliders, we’ve seen a lot of history pass us by. There have been years of great abundance for all, but 2009 has been a tough year for a lot of people. Being in this business, I’ve been especially touched seeing just how much joy animals bring to our lives! Someone asked me recently why sugar glider babies are called joeys. I just noticed that Joey is just Joy with an “e”, and I think it may be the same reason dog is God spelled backwards!

I’ve been touched this year knowing that more families have struggled in recent times than many have witnessed in a lifetime. To know that I’ve been part of bringing joy to families in the form of joeys makes me feel just how connected we are all to each other as one big Earth family.

So now, what can we do to bring our little bundles of joy something special? I say, go ahead and share that turkey! We always have turkey on Thanksgiving and Christmas and everyone knows to save the carcass for Lisa! Nothing goes to waste in glider land. Turkey is a good lean meat and unless you are making it Cajun style with a lot of spices, go ahead and share (in moderation, please!)

I was told by another breeder many years ago that she gives her sugar gliders turkey with bones and all! *gasp* We all know better than to give chicken bones to dogs…could that be a good idea? She told me she does this on a regular basis, so I decided to give it a try. I cut up the neck bone into sections of about three bones and put that in with some of my sugar gliders, and my goodness, talk about patagium-licking good! I’ve never seen bones cleaned so well in my whole life. It was amazing and the sugar gliders were obviously pleased with the meal. I’ve been doing this every holiday season and it brings me as much joy to share this with them as they bring to my life each and every day.

But don’t go overboard. Forget sharing the dressing and the desserts. Some green beans might be nice and sweet potatoes are also a big fave around here.  So in the spirit of the season of sharing, give it a try and share a wee bit of that scrumptious holiday meal!

We are very grateful to be a part of this community and appreciate your support over the years. While we may each be uniquely different, we share the common thread of loving our animules!

From all of us at Suncoast Sugar Gliders, we wish you all a “Happy Holly-Daze” and a Happy, Healthy and Prosperous 2010! We thank you from the bottom of our hearts for your patronage and participation in making the world a better place for sugar gliders and all of God’s creatures!  Hmmmmm, I wonder if sugar gliders have visions of sugar plums dancing in their heads?

‘Til next year, in good health for you and your gliders, we sign off in appreciation of all of you who share great glider adventures with us!