While some pundits rank radical feminism among the top threats to American manhood, James Rutz says we should shift some blame to tofu. That's because tofu is made...

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While some pundits rank radical feminism among the top threats to American manhood, James Rutz says we should shift some blame to tofu.

That’s because tofu is made of soy. And soy consumption, writes the Megashift Ministries founder and religion columnist for conservative news site WorldNetDaily.com, “commonly leads to decrease in the size of the penis, sexual confusion and homosexuality.”

Not that there’s anything wrong with that. But the statement has led to concern.

Rutz, author of 2005’s “Megashift: Igniting Spiritual Power,” blames those “feminizing” effects on female hormones lurking in those innocuous-looking white cubes.

Rutz’s thesis may sound silly, but he’s correct that soybeans make a lot of a plant version of estrogen. Plants need hormones, too, for growth, reproduction, attracting symbiotic bacteria and other important plant business. And because soy is particularly high in the so-called phytoestrogens, scientists are studying its effect on breast cancer, menopausal hot flashes and, yes, sexual orientation.

For years, many researchers thought the estrogens in soy would decrease your natural estrogens by acting as a decoy, clogging the system with a weaker version of the real thing. A slew of studies hasn’t determined whether plant estrogens boost your net estrogen or dampen it.

There’s also a scientific question about the relationship between homosexuality and penis size. Two studies have been done, and both found gay men were slightly better endowed than straight men.

The data remain suspect because they are based on self-reporting. But it still raises the possibility, ladies, that too much tofu could make your man gay and expand his penis. (With all that ambiguity, of course, gay men might just as well worry that too many tofu stir-fries will render them shrunken and straight.)

Before you throw away that soy milk or bag of frozen edamame, keep in mind that Rutz agrees with the scientists on one key point: If estrogens in soy cause any trouble, it would show up most clearly in those who were fed soy formula as infants.

The introduction of soy formula in the 1980s did raise a plausible concern, said Brian Strom, a medical researcher from the University of Pennsylvania. After all, he said, soy is high in plant hormones, and infants would get a high relative dose, especially if formula was all they consumed.

So when a soy producer asked Strom to study the issue several years ago, he started gathering medical data on hundreds of people now in their teens and 20s who were fed soy formula as babies. He looked at sexual orientation, genital malformation and fertility, and found no difference between those fed soy- vs. milk-based formulas.

In other studies, soy has failed to live up to many of the health claims surrounding it.

Researchers first got excited about soy because they found that Asian women had lower rates of breast cancer, possibly because they ate more soy products, said Barbour Warren, a Cornell researcher who has reviewed the literature on soy and health.

Estrogen is known to increase breast-cancer risk in some women by firing up the proliferation of breast cells, he said. At the time, many scientists thought soy would reduce estrogen levels through the decoy effect.

They were surprised, Warren said, to find that soy supplements actually increased the proliferation of breast cells in animals. Still, human studies done so far don’t show any evidence that tofu causes breast cancer; one Chinese study found a protective effect for women who ate soy during adolescence.

Nor do studies back up the notion that soy helps women with menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes, Warren said.

The bottom line, he said, is that it’s probably wise to avoid concentrated soy products sold in health food stores as supplements.

But go ahead and take a second helping of that tofu turkey.