My Patients Ask — Are plant-based milks safe?

My friends at reviewed plant-based “milks” comment on the safety of almond milk, soy milk, oat milk, and other plant-based milks.

Most plant-based milks contain added vitamins and minerals.

To avoid excessive intakes, particularly of calcium, limit intake to one cup at a time and no more than two cups per day, and consider cutting back on supplements that provide the same nutrients.

If you choose a plant-based milk without added vitamin D and calcium, be sure you’re getting enough elsewhere.

Also check that products don’t contain ingredients to which you are allergic, such as soy, almonds, and cashews.

Of the plant-based milk sources, soy is the one I find my patients are most concerned about.

Harvard Health says this in a review about soy foods:

Soy is a unique food that is widely studied for its estrogenic and anti-estrogenic effects on the body.

Studies may seem to present conflicting conclusions about soy, but this is largely due to the wide variation in how soy is studied.

Results of recent population studies suggest that soy has either a beneficial or neutral effect on various health conditions.

Soy is a nutrient-dense source of protein that can safely be consumed several times a week, and is likely to provide health benefits—especially when eaten as an alternative to red and processed meat.

ConsumerLab adds:

Soy milk contains soy isoflavones, which can have a weak estrogenic effect.

While this may concern some women, the isoflavones in soy milk are not likely to have a negative effect, particularly in pre-menopausal women.

An 11-year study of seventy-six thousand French women over 50 years of age found use of soy isoflavone supplements (which typically provide at least twice the amount of soy isoflavones in a cup of soy milk), overall, was not associated with risk of breast cancer.

However, current soy isoflavone [supplement, not milk] use was associated with a 36% increase in the risk of breast cancer among those with a family history of breast cancer.

In contrast, among women who were premenopausal (in whom estrogen levels are still high) or recently menopausal, the risk of developing an estrogen receptor-positive breast cancer was reduced by half with soy isoflavone use (Touillaud, Am J Clin Nutr 2019).

© Copyright WLL, INC. 2021. This blog provides a wide variety of general health information only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment from your regular physician. If you are concerned about your health, take what you learn from this blog and meet with your personal doctor to discuss your concerns.


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