BPA & Soy: The Good and the Bad for Getting Pregnant

I used to believe that when it came to food everything was the miracle food one week and carcinogenic the next week, and my opinion hasn’t totally changed. However, now everything we eat not only impacts us, but also our fertility. So all of a sudden, all the panic surrounding BPA and soy that I had been so successfully ignoring seems to be catching up with me. I couldn’t remember- am I supposed to drink from cans or plastic? Is soy good for me or bad for me?

As I analyzed my diet I realized I eat plenty of soy and I drink and eat out of a lot of plastic and metal. So I started researching the latest on these carcinogens. Here are my findings:

BPA

Yes, BPA is found in plastic and metal cans. Actually, BPA isn’t in the metal itself, but in a liner used to coat the inside of metal cans. BPA is also found in receipts and is easily aborbed through the skin. So next time the cashier asks if you would like your receipt, make sure to say no.

La Croix

As I was reading about BPA I realized I have been avidly drinking La Croix and seltzer water in an attempt to stay well hydrated. Each of these come in either a metal can or a plastic water bottle. La Croix’s website claims that their cans contain BPA, but are within the FDA’s guidelines. However I don’t find this very re-assuring because the FDA approves many household products that are found to be harmful and that are banned in other countries.

Trader Joe’s

On the other hand Trader Joe’s seltzer water comes to me in plastic bottles. However according to Trader Joe’s website these bottles do not contain BPA. In fact, Trader Joe’s website lists which products are BPA-free and which products contain BPA. Interestingly, Trader Joe’s only products containing BPA are cans. I’m pretty sure my take-away message is that if I have to decide between bottled or canned I’m better off sticking with bottles than cans. However, if you do opt to drink from plastic, avoid heat. Do not leave bottles in the sun, do not wash them with hot water and re-use them and do not wash plastic in the dishwater. Heat allows the BPA to leach from containers and into food and drinks.

What’s so bad about BPA?

Some researchers have hypothesized that BPA may effect the brains of unborn fetuses. Although the FDA approved the use of BPA, I don’t know if I am willing to risk my unborn fetus’s brain for my beloved La Croix. At the molecular level, BPA mimics estrogen. This in turn, has been found to decrease fertility in various studies. Recently, a study was published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology evaluating the levels of BPA found in women who are trying to conceive and its effect on fertility. Unfortunately, the study found BPA in the urine of 90% of the population. And in women with elevated BPA, they experienced a 50% decrease in pregnancy rates. But the study found other promising results….

Soy

They actually found that in women who regularly consumed soy products, this effect was not found. Women with elevated BPA who regularly consumed soy had no negative effect to their fertility. Based on this information, the study concluded that soy protects us against the negative effects of BPA and actually blocks the effects of BPA.

Based on this information, I definitely wouldn’t eliminate soy from your diet, and I would even consider adding some soy if you don’t consume any already.

Common Sources of Soy

  1. Soy Milk
  2. Tofu/ Mock Meats
  3. Veggie Burgers
  4. Soy sauce
  5. Edamame

Too Much Soy?

Too much of a good thing is always bad. By now you should know there are no miracle foods. There have been animal studies showing a negative impact of soy on fertility. However, these studies are generally looking at a very high intake of soy. Although the validity of this studies is controversial, personally I would rather stay on the side of caution. I am sticking with soy milk in my coffee and the occasional tofu, but I am making sure to vary my diet with meat proteins as well.

If you are vegetarian and trying to meet the protein requirements of pregnancy you may be consuming a very large amount of soy. Try to include a variety of proteins, such as Greek yogurt, kidney beans, chickpeas and quinoa.

 

What does it all mean?

Avoid BPA whenever possible. Wash your plastic by hand. Choose plastic over cans. Avoid handling receipts. However, it is impossible to completely avoid BPA and therefore adding soy products in moderation can help reduce the effects of BPA on fertility. Although soy does have hormonal effects, those effects are positive. Like everything, don’t overdo it. Having too much of anything is bad. If you still have more questions about food in your diet, make sure to ask them at your preconception visit.

For more information about the preconception visit, check out my article “The Preconception Visit”

 

Link to the Article

Chavarro, J. E., Mínguez-Alarcón, L., Chiu, Y. H., Gaskins, A. J., Souter, I., Williams, P. L., … & Hauser, R. (2016). Soy intake modifies the relation between urinary bisphenol A concentrations and pregnancy outcomes among women undergoing assisted reproduction. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism101(3), 1082-1090.