Should Kids Stay Away from Soy?
Q. I have recently heard concerns about boys eating soy. As the mom of one vegetarian boy and with another boy on the way, I'm worried about their development and long-term health. What's the truth surrounding these warnings? -- Michelle, Phoenix, AZ
A. Soy contains plant estrogens, so there are concerns about the health effects on babies of both sexes who are given infant formula made from soy. Part of the issue is that there's not enough good data, which always leaves the door open for doubt and rumor.
On the positive side: The longest running study of children raised on soy formula is only in its 6th year, but, so far, the children -- male and female -- are healthy and growing normally. The not-as-positive side: 6 years is a short time, and animal studies have raised some cause for caution. Infant formulas made with soy contain very high amounts of genistein, soy's main estrogen. In studies using piglets (their physiology is similar to ours, and not just during hot dog eating contests), genistein stopped newborn intestinal cells from growing as they should.
Other studies involving rats and soy formula have detected changes in the way the body metabolizes drugs, which might make them less effective. Even the American Academy of Pediatrics has backed away from giving soy its whole-hearted blessing. It continues to recommend, as we do, the healthiest and most digestible infant food -- breast milk, which comes in that handy-dandy, eco-friendly package. Soy may be safe, but the final word isn't in yet.
Q. I take a garlic supplement and two baby aspirin every day. Are they doing the same thing -- thinning my blood? -- Marsha, Bay City, Michigan
A. Yes and no. Both garlic and aspirin have antiplatelet activity, meaning they prevent your blood from forming clots that can clog your arteries and cause a heart attack or travel to your brain and trigger a stroke.
So if you're taking both garlic and aspirin for their blood-thinning abilities, you could safely skip the stinking rose supplement. Drying garlic to squeeze it into a capsule can process the health benefits right out of it. (One study found that even cooked garlic lost its antiplatelet activity, though it could be brought back to life with a little fresh garlic juice.)
Do, however, stick with aspirin (if your doc agrees it's right for you). The research is clear: Daily aspirin therapy not only can help reduce your risk of heart attack and stroke but also will significantly increase your survival odds if you do have a heart attack. And aspirin does have great additional anticancer benefits. Here's how they're not doing the same thing: Garlic doesn't have such benefits to our knowledge. But aspirin can decrease -- by about 40% -- the risk of cancer of the colon, rectum, bladder, esophagus, breast, and prostate.
Q. For the past few years, I've had episodes of vertigo. I lose my balance and get nauseous, usually when I get up in the morning. My MRI and blood work are all fine, but it keeps happening. What can I do? -- Anonymous
A.Spend some time getting to the bottom of this, especially since it can be debilitating (and lead you to fall because your balance is off). A blood test and an MRI aren't going to tell your doctor everything he or she needs to know to find out what's giving you the whirlies.
Vertigo can have dozens of causes. Often it's related to inflammation of the inner ear, which controls balance, or a problem with the vestibular nerve, which links your ear to your brain stem. Other potential diagnoses (warning -- some are scary): brain problems (including tumors), nerve compression from a benign tumor, head injuries, blood vessel diseases, migraine headaches, some drugs (certain antibiotics, including gentamicin) and Meniere's disease.
Did we mention an otolaryngologist? If it lasts more than a few weeks, make an appointment with one of these ear, nose, and throat specialists who subspecialize in vertigo, and go for the full workup. Because this can be so debilitating, if you don't get a solution from one doctor, go for a second opinion. Please, just for us.