We here at Regenerative Times have seen plenty of headlines about the Impossible Burger. Burger King recently rolled out an impossible burger product, and recently, celebrities such as Ellen Degeneres, Miley Cyrus and Leonardo DiCaprio have all backed the product. The product has reportedly won against beef in taste tests. So out of our curiosity, we decided to investigate how, exactly, a soy-based burger managed to finally taste as good as real meat.
So what’s the breakthrough the soy-based burger? The inclusion of a genetically modified plant-based hemoglobin, called Soy Leghemoglobin, according to Impossible Burger’s website. Hemoglobin is a substance in cow’s blood, which may be responsible for giving the Impossible Burger it’s texture and oozing-red blood effect while cooking.
Other ingredients are par for the course for vegan meat substitutes:
Water, Soy Protein Concentrate, Coconut Oil, Sunflower Oil, Natural Flavors, 2% or less of: Potato Protein, Methylcellulose, Yeast Extract, Cultured Dextrose, Food Starch Modified, Soy Leghemoglobin, Salt, Soy Protein Isolate, Mixed Tocopherols (Vitamin E), Zinc Gluconate, Thiamine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B1), Sodium Ascorbate (Vitamin C), Niacin, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B6), Riboflavin (Vitamin B2), Vitamin B12.
You will notice the inclusion of various synthetic vitamins, some whose chemical name is not specified, as a means to attempt to emulate the nutritional profile of beef. We do wonder why some chemical names were discluded ( Vitamin B12 can come in 3, or perhaps more, forms, which vary greatly in bio-availability )
That’s all fine and dandy, but what about the estrogen part?
Those in the know understand the problems with soy protein. Soy protein contains a xenoestrogen called genistein, which is implicated in breast and ovarian cancer in women, and affecting sexual development in males, among many other negative effects. It’s most notable use today is in popular supplements such as this:
The above product lists 56mg of soy isoflavones but does not provide a breakdown of the individual isoflavones on the box. Interestingly, the FDA allows the company to claim the product is estrogen and drug free, even though genistein is technically a drug that influences estrogen receptors.
The nutrition label of the impossible burger states that a burger portion is 113 grams. Based on the ingredient breakdown, we imagine that there is approximately 80 grams of soy protein in the product. What we wanted to know is how much soy isoflavones ( particularly the most harmful, Genistein ) was present in the burger, so we turned to the USDA’s table of soy isoflavones in soy protein products ( per 100 grams ).
How’s that compare to the isoflavones in post menopause supplements?
A quick browse of soy isoflavone-based supplements for menopause relief on amazon revealed that the standard dosage of soy isoflavones ranges from 30 to 125 milligrams. Taking the average isoflavone content, we have 77.5mg on average in these supplements, however, supplements with isoflavones as low as 50mg are reported by customers to be effective. In addition, there are plenty of clinical studies proving soy isoflavones increase estrogen levels, and are thus effective for symptoms of menopause.
Individual Genistein levels are rarely mentioned in the ingredients, but based on the tale above, Genistein makes up around 66% of the isoflavones in most soy based products. We would imagine that the average effective dose for menopause relief would be anywhere from 20mg to 75mg.
In our best guesstimate of the soy protein percentage in the impossible burger, We would imagine that each burger contains 42.2mg of the xenoestrogenic compound, if the soy protein concentrate comes from a water based extraction, or around 4.2mg for the alcohol extract.
We reached out to Impossible Foods by email for clarification and have not heard back. The phone number listed on their website went straight to voicemail.
In the best case scenario, consuming 5 impossible burger patties in one day would produce a low-end clinical dosage of the hormone disruptor. In the worst case, half of an Impossible Burger patty would have the same effect.
The introduction of palatable soy-based meat substitutes may successfully nudge meat eaters towards a plant-based diet, but we believe that consumers should be aware that soy based products are not health foods due to their sex hormone disrupting activity, as well of the well documented presence of phyic acid, trypsin inhibitors, goitrogens, etc – often found in commercial American soy products due to the fact that westerners generally don’t ferment soy to remove these toxic substances, like asian cultures are apt to do.
It is still disputed as to whether soy in the diet is responsible for fueling rising rates of breast and ovarian cancer. We are particularly concerned that a single patty of Impossible Burger very likely contains a clinically active level of an estrogen booster designed for post-menopausal women.
We will be sure to provide an update in a future article if we hear back from Impossible Foods.
We at Regenerative Times encourage you to do your own independent research. We are not doctors and do not mistake this for medical advice.