By Bob Condor

Not surprisingly, the media was quick to report a July study that linked tofu with increased memory loss. As a journalist, I can see the headline is hard to resist. British and Indonesian researchers discovered that older Indonesians (above age 68) who ate high amounts of tofu experienced memory loss at a greater rate than fellow Indonesians who ate tofu moderately.

The study was published in a respected geriatric journal and was funded by an Alzheimer’s research foundation. The researchers pointed out the phytoestrogens or plant nutrients in soy provide “neuroprotection” to the brains of middle-aged individuals (65 and younger) but seem to be potentially too active for the aging brain. More research is needed, said the researchers and the Alzheimer’s officials who commented.

One interesting note that was reported in more complete media reports: Eating large amounts of tempeh, another form of fermented soy that is produced from the whole bean, seemed to actually boost memory in those same older Indonesians. The reason? Probably the higher amount of folate found in tempeh when compared with tofu. Folate or folic acid is B vitamin most widely associated with preventing birth defects when consumed in adequate amounts by expectant mothers. It has been increasingly associated with promoting healthy cell formation (and sustaining the life of cells) in the brain. A daily vitamin B supplement is a feasible protective measure, plus the “B’s” are renowned for fighting off stress.

Here’s the DHB take on tofu: If you are adding some protein to your vegetarian stir-fry, tempeh seems a “safe” choice. But before you skip the tofu option, remember that nutrition research can be more like a marathon than a sprint (to get us in the mindset of this summer’s Olympics in Beijing). You will find lots of warnings about the dangers of soy on the Internet, yet there are plenty of studies that connect soy with healthy immune systems and longevity.

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