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Possible Effects of Soy Infant Formula

by Sally Fallon, Mary Enig, PhD, & Michael Fitzptrck.

POSSIBLE EFFECTS OF PHYTOESTROGENS IN SOY INFANT FORMULA

Soy formula, which contains phytoestrogens, genistein and daidzein (also called isoflavones) is given to approximately 25% of those US children fed formula. It is estimated that an infant exclusively fed soy formula receives the estrogenic equivalent of at least five birth control pills per day. By contrast, almost no phytoestrogens have been detected in dairy-based infant formula or in human milk, even when the mother consumes soy products. A recent study found that babies fed soy-based formula had 13,000 to 22,000 times more isoflavones in their blood than babies fed milk-based formula. Scientists have known for years that isoflavones in soy products can depress thyroid function, causing autoimmune thyroid disease and even cancer of the thyroid. But what are the effects of soy products on the hormonal development of the infant, both male and female?

Male infants undergo a "testosterone surge" during the first few months of life, when testosterone levels maybe as high as those of an adult male. During this period, the infant is programmed to express male characteristics after puberty, not only in the development of his sexual organs and other masculine physical traits, but also in setting patterns in the brain characteristic of male behavior. In monkeys, deficiency of male hormones impairs the development of spatial perception-normally more acute in men than in women-of learning ability and of visual discrimination tasks, such as would be required for reading. It goes without saying that future patterns of sexual orientation may also be influenced by the early hormonal environment.

Pediatricians are noticing greater numbers of boys whose physical maturation is delayed, or does not occur at all, including lack of development of the sexual organs. Learning disabilities, especially in male children, have reached epidemic proportions. Soy infant feeding-which floods the bloodstream with female hormones that could inhibit the effects of male hormones-cannot be ignored as a possible cause for these tragic developments.

As for girls, an alarming number are entering puberty much earlier than normal, according to a recent study reported in the journal Pediatrics. Investigators found that one percent of all girls now show signs of puberty, such as breast development or pubic hair, before the age of three; by age eight, 14.7 percent of Caucasian girls and a whopping 48.3 percent of African-American girls had one or both of these characteristics. New data indicate that environmental estrogens such as PCBs and DDE (a breakdown product of DDT) may cause early sexual development in girls. It is not unreasonable to conclude that huge amounts of female hormones from infant formula could have similar effects. The consequences are tragic. Young girls with mature bodies must cope with feelings and urges that most children are not well-equipped to handle. And early maturation in girls is frequently a harbinger for problems with the reproductive system later in life including failure to menstruate, infertility and breast cancer.

Other problems that have been anecdotally associated with children of both sexes who were fed soy-based formula include extreme emotional behavior, asthma, immune system problems, pituitary insufficiency, thyroid disorders and irritable bowel syndrome. Obviously, a well-designed study is urgently needed.

Meanwhile, there IS an alternative to both soy- and milk-based commercial formula for mothers unable to breast-feed: Homemade whole foods baby formula. Recipes are given in Sally Fallon's book 'Nourishing Traditions,' which can be ordered from NewTrends Publishing 877-707-1776 or newtrendspublishing.com

I highly recommend Sally's book, it is the best cook book I have ever owned, and it is filled with all kinds of wonderful health information. -- Timothy Long