Textured Vegetable (Soy) Protein


Wei-Yee Chan sent me a link to an article about textured vegetable protein, by Mike Adams. Thanks for the link, it made my morning!

In the article, Mr. Adams offers anecdotal evidence to support his fear of soy protein. It would be quite amusing to pick the text apart, if it weren’t for the fact that such texts reach a wide audience and spread fear of something that needn’t be feared (very much).

First off, Mr. Adams seems a bit confused about what textured vegetable protein really is. He equates it with soy protein, but then goes on to mention that rice protein is so much better. Now even those amongst us knowning nothing about nutrition should notice that rice is as much or little a vegetable as soy is… so textured rice protein is still TVP. That mixup alone makes me wonder how much the author really understands about what he’s writing about.

Granted, most TVP you buy is either soy protein or wheat protein, so at least he’s half-right. But still oh-so wrong.

He goes on to give anecdotal evidence that TVP must be bad, by explaining how the rabbits in his back yard won’t touch the stuff. Now I agree with him that animals tend to have a slightly better sense of what’s edible and/or good food for them or not than us humans. I place emphasis on “slightly”, because it’s incredibly easy to feed pets wrong, a prime example being the (sugar) molasses in just about any type of food pellet. Of course rabbits will prefer something that tastes tastily sugary over plain grass, so it must be better food for them.

We’ve got rabbits and rats, and while (to my knowledge) we haven’t fed them soy chunks, we’ve found that each of them has very distinct tastes, and won’t touch some kinds of food with a bargepole even if there’s nothing else to have around. That’s my anecdotal evidence to counter his, and given that his so-called evidence contained no proof whatsoever, I don’t feel compelled to provide more of my own. There you go.

On to the facts about soy products he lists. There is really only one, that soy products often contain monosodium glutamate, which arguably is bad for you. To spare you reading through all of that last link (there’s a fair amount of information), I’ll summarize things like this: glutamate can occur naturally, but many foods are processed in such a way as to “free” the glutamate, or have added “free” glutamate. This form of glutamate acts as a taste enhancer insofar, as it tricks the body into thinking it’s eaten more protein than it really has (it’s more of a satisfaction-enhancer, than taste-enhancer). It’s also linked to various diseases, so it’s likely a great idea to stay away from excessive amounts of glutamate.

Here’s the problem with his line of argumentation, though: MSG exists in pretty much any modern food, in “free” as well as bound form. Soy protein contains a lot, but the author’s preferred choices of rice or whey protein contain pretty much the same amounts. I’m not trying to defend MSG usage here, far from it — I’m just pointing out that the author’s allegedly superior alternatives are just as bad in the one point he criticizes as soy. In other words, he’s preaching to drive out the devil by the power of Beelzebub.

  • http://chanweiyee.blogspot.com/2008/04/meat-for-vegetarians.html Wei-Yee Chan

    Awesome article!!! I’m adding this to Stumble and Twitter.

    Wei-Yee Chans last blog post… DRM for Linux?

    • http://www.unwesen.de/ unwesen

      I’m glad you liked it :) I have to say I would’ve preferred it if I had linked to a few more scientific articles about nutrition and digestion, but I was too lazy… *coughs*