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Soy-based formulas are regularly used as alternatives to breast milk in infants; however, there is much controversy over the safety of these products. We know that soy is estrogenic, which means it can mimic estrogen in the body, and that ingesting too much soy (specifically too much processed soy) can dysregulate hormones systematically (causing a variety of issues like cancers, infertility, obesity, and the list goes on…). And, when fed soy-based formula, infants have higher exposure of those estrogenic compounds than do adults! Never mind the fact that 91% of soy in the United States is genetically modified (GM). Obviously, this is not great… Because of the concerns, researchers have examined this issue for quite some time, yet still determine that the results are inconclusive. However, I don’t believe that the results are inconclusive, and will explain here why it is critical to rethink feeding your precious child soy-based formula. Also I think it is of importance to understand that the United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand all caution the use of soy-based formulas because of the evidence that I will present here. [Hmmm, funny how a country with big business (in bed with the U.S. Government) that produces patented GM soy doesn't warn against the use of soy-based formulas...]
While investigating the literature, I kept in mind that results section of the research articles are the facts (usually) and that the discussion/conclusions sections are the places where the authors get to tell you what they think about the results (i.e. they get to spin it however they’d like); thus, I went to the results and dug around from there. Looking into the research, I saw A LOT of studies questioning the safety of soy-based formulas in human populations, and then concluding that,”it seems like these formulas are generally safe, but we really don’t know… so, don’t worry, keep on using them anyway!” One of the most frustrating sentences that I read during my independent research was, “soy products are widely promoted as a natural, safe way to achieve at least some of the benefi ts of hormone replacement therapy in adults, and there is substantial laboratory evidence supporting their potential for hormonal activity. Infants on soy formula, however, achieve doses of the active compounds that are much higher than can be achieved by an adult eating soy foods, but do not appear to be affected.” To which I ask, how do you know these infants are not affected? How are we to know the long-term consequences for these infants if they’re not being studied??!!? And, what about the fact that we do know what happens to a variety of animals exposed to soy-based formulas – why would we think that humans are responding any differently?
Let’s take a look at the specifics, and YOU decide how you might respond once you understand the research.
1) Blood levels of genistein (an isoflavone from the soy in the formula) observed in infants fed soy-based formula was higher than the amount considered toxic in experimental studies. If you conceptualize this in terms of the equivalency of birth control pills, the amount of estrogenic isoflavones that an infant consumes is estimated to be five birth control pills daily. We know birth control pills are dangerous for adults… what about developing children?
2) Mice given injections of genistein (a soy isoflavone) developed cancer of the reproductive system. The researchers in this study report that, “the association between estrogenic hormones and cancer of the reproductive system is irrefutable.”
3) There are a number of studies indicating that with the use of soy-based formulas comes reproductive impairment. I found a few animal studies looking at soy-based formulas in male marmosets and male rats. The results revealed that feeding with soy-based formulas altered the size of the testes, and contributed to Leydig cell failure. So, what does this mean? Well, I’m sure by now you can guess it’s not great… Specifically, failure of Leydig cells (which secretes testosterone and other androgens), affects spermatogenesis (or the development of sperm)… Obviously this affects male fertility. Looking at the same concept from a different angle, several studies have concluded that infertile human males have higher estrogen levels (again soy has estrogenic properties, or to put it simply, it mimics estrogen…).
4) Human females fed soy-based formulas as infants had altered menstruation cycles (specifically, longer and more painful periods of menstruation). By this point, it should be no surprise: long and painful periods are linked to estrogen dominance. Another study suggests that infant feeding with soy-based formulas in humans leads to early onset of menstruation (and thus, early puberty, which is linked to short stature, social and emotional issues, and breast and endometrial cancers).
5) A recent mice study indicated that exposure to plant-based estrogens (e.g. genistein, one of the isoflavones found in soy) prenatally and in infancy, childhood, and adolescence led to a “failure to ovulate, reduced ability of the oviduct (passage way from the ovaries to the uterus; see picture) to support embryo development before implantation, and failure of the uterus to support effective implantation of blastocyst-stage embryos.” An overall affect on female fertility was observed in this study, and recommends limiting human exposure to soy, especially feeding with soy-based formulas. There are several other mice studies that demonstrate the same results. There are also studies that suggest the same occurs in humans. And, just in case you doubt the connection between mice and humans in research, a scientist helping to develop drugs for infertile women (in studies unrelated to the above-mentioned) states, “Everything else that was found in mice so far has borne out in humans.”
6) GM soy is associated with a number of health issues including infertility, allergies (it’s important to note that when GM soy was allowed in the United Kingdom, soy allergies increased by 50%!), asthma, autoimmune issues, cancer, accelerated aging, issues with insulin regulation, autism, and disruption to major organs (including the gastrointestinal tract). Worse, children are more vulnerable to the effects of these types of toxins. Remember, 91% of soy is GM! Even more scary, when digesting a toxic GMO isn’t as simple as the concept that what goes in eventually comes out… The manipulated gene in GM soy actually alters the DNA in our gut bacteria and continues to function inside of us even after the GM food is long-gone from our system! Do you really want to risk feeding that to your child (and essentially turning them into a lab rat)? Let’s put it this way, there is not one study assessing the safety of GM foods in humans… but, the biotech industry wants you to ignore that (and the countless animals studies that were conducted that conclude GMOs are in fact toxic!) and eat up anyway.
7) Soy is considered an “anti-nutrient,” as it blocks the enzymes necessary to break down proteins and contains phytic acid, which blocks the absorption of essential minerals and nutrients (calcium, magnesium, zinc, iron, b-12, d2 and d3, and other fat-soluble vitamins). This is well-known in the soy industry; thus, manufacturers attempt to process the soy (even more!) in order to “get rid” of these “anti-nutrient” effects. Unfortunately this just creates more issues, like making the soy toxic and impossible to digest, causing diseases of the pancreas and cancer. It’s not difficult to imagine what might occur if a developing child isn’t absorbing proteins, fats, minerals, vitamins, cholesterol, et cetera. Feeding with soy-based formulas is even implicated in learning disabilities… learning is probably difficult if you aren’t developing properly due to malnutrition from consistent consumption of an anti-nutirent!
8) Aside from the dangerous effects of soy itself, soy-based formulas are often tainted with contaminants and heavy metals like aluminum (linked to Alzheimer’s), manganese (linked to ADHD), cadmium (a neurotoxin), and lead (a neurotoxin), chemical residues from pesticides and fertilizers (carcinogens), and plastics (hormone dysregulators; think BPAs), aflatoxin (a fungal toxin and known carcinogen).
So, do we really need more studies to determine whether or not soy-based formulas are problematic? Like I said before – it seems pretty clear to me that soy-based formulas are dangerous! By the way, you might want to check out your own food labels – you will probably be surprised to find that soy is in just about everything… Thank goodness for subsidized food, right?
If you are looking for healthy infant formula alternatives, click here for suggestions!
Think before you (or your infant) drink!