Soaking soya beans in warm water could be the key to unlocking their cancer-fighting properties
For years now scientists have been trying to pinpoint exactly why cancer mortality rates in Japan are lower than almost anywhere else in the world, and they think it could be down to the humble soya bean, which makes up a large part of the typical Japanese diet. Soya beans contain a substance snappily named Bowman-Birk Protease Inhibitor (BBI), which has proven to be effective at preventing some forms of cancer. Now researchers have discovered how to extract the special substance simply and easily: soaking the beans in warm water.
Previous attempts to isolate the cancer-fighting BBI substance have involved time-consuming processes as well as harsh chemicals. But sometimes the simplest approach is the best. Researchers from the University of Missouri tried various different methods and found that by putting soya beans in warm water the anti-cancer protein was naturally released into the water. From there it is easily harvested. The ideal temperature proved to be 50˚C (122˚F) at which point the highest quantities of BBI were found in the water. And when the researchers then tested the BBI protein, they found it was still active – it prevented breast cancer cells from dividing when they applied the extracted BBI to cells in a petri dish. So how can you get this substance inside you? "Most nutrients are at their best when ingested in their most natural form," says registered nutritionist Dr Carina Norris, author of The Food Manual (Haynes). "Without clinical tests, it's impossible to say for sure whether eating soya beans conveys enough of BBI to make a difference. But if you don't eat it already, adding soya protein to your diet is certainly a healthy option. It's a good source of protein that's much lower in saturated fat than animal products such as meat and dairy, and also contains plant compounds which can lower your blood cholesterol. Together, this can reduce your risk of coronary heart disease, too."