Healthy Moms

The problems with soy.
June 8, 2010 at 8:40 PM

In regards to infants:

In the United States, about 25 percent of formula-fed babies receive soy-based formula. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) currently considers soy formulas acceptable for healthy term infants, although they are third choice after breastmilk and cow milk formulas.  "Acceptability" is based primarily on the fact that term infants fed soy formulas gain weight and appear to grow normally. 

The AAP only recommends soy formulas over cow milk formulas for vegan families or for infants with certain medical conditions that affect how the baby metabolizes lactose, such as diagnosed lactose intolerance or galactosemia, a rare genetic disease. The AAP does not recommend soy formulas for preterm or low birth-weight babies.

Soy-based formulas are made from soybeans. One concern with soy-based formulas is that they contain high levels of phytoestrogens like genistein. Phytoestrogens are molecules made by plants that mimic the actions of estrogen. Remarkably, genistein levels measured in the blood of soy-fed infants are roughly 10 times higher than phytoestrogen concentrations known to alter a woman's menstrual cycle.

Estrogens are important in reproductive development and function. Although animal studies suggest effects, it is not definitive if the phytoestrogens in soy formulas can alter the reproductive development of infants.

Human studies have linked soy formula consumption with early breast development, abnormal menstrual cycles and a greater tendency to have twins. One study found reduced immune response to childhood vaccinations among children raised on soy formulas, although a follow-up study could not replicate the findings.

Rodent studies have shown that baby mice injected with genistein are more likely to have larger uterines, reduced fertility, altered estrous cycling, multioocytic follicles (MOFs), decreases in uterine progesterone receptor expression and other effects associated with excess estrogen exposure. When a female's eggs develop in her ovary, they should occur as single cells contained in nests of nurse cells referred to as follicles. MOFs are an abnormal condition in which multiple egg cells develop within a follicle. MOFs in mice have been associated with reduced fertility. Progesterone receptors are important in the uterus because they regulate the maintenance of pregnancy, among other important reproductive functions. A loss of progesterone receptors could cause infertility and miscarriage.

Rodent studies that use injected mice have been criticized because the route of exposure is not the same as in humans. When genistein is injected into mice, it bypasses the gut, where it might be metabolized into less or more potent forms. In addition, many injection studies cause peak genistein concentrations in research mice that greatly exceed those measured in soy formula-fed infants.

In regards to girls:

A new study reports that girls are reaching puberty at a younger age than ever before because of ingesting high amounts of hormone-like substances. These hormone-like substances are phenols, phthalates and phytoestrogens.

Phenols, phthalates and phytoestrogens are toxic substances that are pervasive in environment and in our homes.

Phytoestrogen mimics estrogen and is found in soy products. Dr. William Campbell says that soy products are not the healthy foods we have been led to believe, but is instead dangerous and toxic to consume.

The phenol BPA is in bottles and cans. BPA is linked to asthma, cancer, heart disease, obesity and various sexual problems.

Phthalates are found in plastic and makeup. While the overdose of these hormone-like substances are causing accelerated maturity in girls, some boys now have the misfortune of developing breasts.

"This new study in Environmental Health Perspectives is on girls, but the damage isn't limited to them. These are equal-opportunity hormones, and they're making boys more feminine as well."

Until the government takes steps to eliminate these toxins, it's up to us to protect ourselves from phenols, phthalates and phytoestrogens.

More on soy, and also reasons to avoid certain brands that refine the soy with hexane:

Many non-organic veggie burgers are immersed in the neurotoxin hexane when they are being prepared. As a rule, non-organic veggies burgers containing soy protein isolate, soy protein concentrate, or texturized vegetable protein have been immersed in the neurotoxin.

Hexane may even have been used for veggie burgers that you bought thinking they were organic. But it's not that simple. Check labels carefully. If the label says "made with organic ingredients" the neurotoxin hexane may still be present. The disclaimer being that the label does not say the product is ONLY made with organic ingredients.

Dr. Kaayla Daniel, who wrote "The Whole Soy Story" voices caution about the use of soy.

"Dr. Daniel also points out the findings of numerous studies reviewed by her and other colleagues -- that soy does not reliably lower cholesterol, and in fact raises homocysteine levels in many people, which has been found to increase your risk of stroke, birth defects, and yes: heart disease."

Veggie burgers aren't the only food product to watch out for. The neurotoxin hexane is present in the vast majority of processed foods containing soy, peanut and corn oil.


  • RanaAurora
    June 9, 2010 at 10:35 AM

    Quoting BornToRun84:


    Quoting DestMasters:

     I should add that I don't totally avoid soy.  I love tofu and edamame on my salads.  I think the biggest problems happen when people consume large amounts of it. i.e., babies having soy formula since that's all they're getting for months.

     I agree, its like when I see new vegans or vegetarians eat soy based meat replacements three meals a day. No good.

    Yup, or when people drink soy milk as their main beverage.

    Also remember that GMO soy has been shown to be one of the worst offenders.  Non-GMO soy is okay for occasional use.

  • PosterOfAGirl
    June 9, 2010 at 11:42 AM

    Yeah soy is in EVERYTHING...EVERYTHING! If it's processed it most likely has soy in it.

    If you remove all that crap from your diet, and you know you don't consume soy on a daily basis in everything you eat, then eating tofu and edamame once a week is NO big deal. I love tofu!

    I can't eat soy right now. Because of my high levels of candida in my body I already have a lethal level of estrogen in my body. So if I continue to consume soy i'll have breast cancer in no time.

    So I avoid it like crazy. I do miss my Braggs Liquid Aminos though!

  • Christyskids
    June 9, 2010 at 2:39 PM

    I guess I will do my own study here.  My kids were all fed soy based formula for the first year of their lives.  We'll see what side effects they have later on.  My daughter is almost 10 and no early signs of puberty yet.

    I was breast fed as a baby and am lactose intolerant.  My 11yr old cannot tolerate milk either and I'm sure my girls will get to that point one day.

    As a side note.  Last January I stared drinking soy milk before I knew about the dangers of soy.  I experienced breast lumps, and very sore breasts around the time of my AF.  The lumps have since gone away and the tenderness is gone too.

  • RanaAurora
    June 9, 2010 at 2:48 PM

    Christykids, it's great that your girls are fine and I'm sorry you suffer from LI...

    ...but a couple personal experiences don't override large-scale long term studies. 

    It sounds like you did have a strong effect of the estrogen though, or it could be entirely unrelated.

  • Christyskids
    June 9, 2010 at 2:55 PM

    Sorry, I forget not everyone gets my humor.

    I'm not saying my girls are overriding the studies.  I agree with them.  Just kind of joking, saying its sad, but in a couple of years we'll find out if our daughters have early periods, etc.

    Quoting RanaAurora:

    Christykids, it's great that your girls are fine and I'm sorry you suffer from LI...

    ...but a couple personal experiences don't override large-scale long term studies. 

    It sounds like you did have a strong effect of the estrogen though, or it could be entirely unrelated.

  • evwsquared
    June 10, 2010 at 12:37 AM

    Interestingly, I've also found a study that says the isoflavones in soy formula decreased the virulence of rotavirus in infants by 40-60%. Another study showed that soy is protective against endocrine-related gynecological cancers. Soy isoflavones can reduce hot flashes. Soy is linked to reduced incidence of breast and prostate cancers. All of the studies I find point to I understand the concern for infant formula, but I don't completely understand the concern outside of this. I understand that the hypothesis is that because the phytoestrogen in soy mimics estrogen, the increased levels of this "hormone" in the human body could have negative effects. But, how is phytoestrogen absorbed, circulated, distributed, metabolized, and excreted by the body?

    Also, I question the scientific analysis abilities of a person who would choose to write a mass media book about the dangers of soy and how her reviews of the studies shows that soy does X, Y, and Z, contrary to what others think, but fails to engage in a professional discussion of these issues in favor of the monetary gain that comes from a book. If her concern was people's health, then shouldn't she be engaging the soy research community to ensure that the most accurate results possible are published and disseminated? By writing a mass media book, she contributes nothing to that effort. I can't read Dr. Mercola's information because it requires me to divulge more personal inforomation in order to access it than I feel comfortable with.

    I'm feeling feisty because I had tofu for dinner. It was organic, at least, right? Right?

    (You will all learn that I will likely play devil's advocate any time scientific research comes up. Occupational hazard. My husband's a scientist, and I'm a science editor and writer.)

  • catholicmamamia
    June 10, 2010 at 1:28 AM

    Wonderful article, thank you for sharing!

    Soy is in over half of all processed foods, so avoiding overconsumption of soy can be challenging. What is concerning is that many who are trying to go the healthful path may increase their soy intake and inadvertantly put themselves at risk for a myriad of negative side effects. Excess amounts of processed soy is taxing enough on an adults body, for an infant being formula-fed soy the dangers are exponentially compounded.

    Long story short is the less processed the food, the better. By minimizing consumption of processed foods containing soy and limiting consumption to soy as close to its natural state as possible, soy will maintain its position as a health benefit as opposed to risk.

  • evwsquared
    June 10, 2010 at 4:34 PM

    Back up a minute. I understand why soy infant formula is not ideal. BUT, I need someone to give me information as to why I, an adult woman, should not be eating soy. I understand the thing about hexanes and veggie burgers. But, tell me why I shouldn't eat tofu or edamame?

    I'm also going to do more research about girls eating soy, because Eleanor loves tofu. I've just read the research article that the article linked to above is talking about (in Environmental Health Perspectives), and in it, the phytoestrogen enterolactone is weakly associated with an increase in breast development. Enterolactone results when a lignan is digested by bacteria in the colon. The lignan that does this is only present in the smallest amounts in soy. For example, there is 400 times more in one ounce of ground flaxseed than in 4 oz. of tofu. Although, what the study found for this phytoestrogen was that it attenuated the negative influence of high BMI on breast development (because fat tissue carries peripubertal hormones). Which is a good thing. So, that article linked to above is being extremely misleading. That pisses me off. In the first paragraph, it exagerates the findings of the study, and it extends a blanket finding to all of the substances it lists (there were actually more in the research study, but they didn't start with P, so I guess the author here didn't want to include them?), which is inaccurate. Secondly, it goes on to link soy to the results of this study, which is misleading. Obviously the authors want us to avoid soy. I get that. But, you can't just take the fact that a paper was published to be evidence for your cause.

  • RanaAurora
    June 10, 2010 at 5:32 PM

    So, could you possibly help me find proof of either side that you are scientifically happy with?

  • evwsquared
    June 10, 2010 at 7:03 PM

    I don't know! That's the thing. I'm not going to go into soy in formulas, since it's not an issue for me. I really don't think that there is anything conclusive. At least, that's all I can find. I'd like for someone to give me the data they have been convinced by. That's really what I want!

    One thing that bothers me about the articles that you linked to above is that they do things like mention "a recent study in Environmental Health Perspectives." Well, who was the study by? Where are those people from? What's the title of the article so that I can go look at it? If it doesn't give that information, the authors are making it difficult (and I hope not on purpose) for you to validate their information and instead navigating you to rely upon them for your single source of information. Here's where you can download the PDF of the EHP study.

    Here's a critique of a meta-analysis of the effects of phytoestrogens in women. Here's a review of its role in glucose and lipid metabolism (you might need me to PDF this to you). This paper has an interesting statement in its section about the potential adverse effects of soy: it points out while relating animal studies of soy's adverse effects that the route of administration (injection) in these studies bypasses the digestive system, which thus makes the results of little relevance to humans consuming soy products, because soy's main isoflavones must be hydrolyzed by intestinal bacteria to become biologically active.

    Here's another one about breast, colorectal, and prostate cancer. Here's one about breast cancer.

    Honestly, Christie, I just don't know what to think. It takes a LOT of reading for me. Where is it that you go to look for your information? I'm terribly geeky and go to the journals, which I know many people think that I'm naive, but it's not in me to automatically distrust scientists the way it is for so many people because I spend so much time with them and know how they feel about their work.

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