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The Tragedy of Soy Infant Formula PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sally Fallon   
Saturday, 01 January 2000 17:02

Read this article in: Spanish

Soy AlertAn estimated 25% of North American babies receive infant formula made from processed soybeans. Parents use soy formula in the belief that is it healthier than formula based on cows' milk. Soy promotional material claims that soy provides complete protein that is less allergenic than cows' milk protein. When soy infant formula first became commercially available, manufacturers even promised that soy formula was "better than breast milk."

Parents have a right to know how these extravagant claims compare to scientific findings related to soy infant formula.

While soybeans are relatively high in protein compared to other legumes, scientists have long recognized them as a poor source of protein because other proteins found in soybeans act as potent enzyme inhibitors. These "antinutrients" block the action of trypsin and other enzymes needed for protein digestion. In test animals, diets high in trypsin inhibitors depress growth and cause enlargement and pathological conditions of the pancreas, including cancer.

The soy industry recognizes that trypsin inhibitors are a problem in infant formula and have spent millions of dollars to determine the best way to remove them. Trypsin inhibitors are large, tightly folded proteins that are only deactivated after a considerable period of heat treatment. This process removes most—but not all—of the trypsin inhibitors, but has the unfortunate side effect of over-denaturing the other proteins in soy, particularly lysine, rendering them difficult to digest and possibly toxic. Even in low amounts, trypsin inhibitors prevented normal growth in rats.

The main ingredient in soy infant formula is soy protein isolate, a powder extracted from soybeans through a process that involves not only high temperatures but also caustic chemicals. The alkaline soaking solution produces a carcinogen, lysinealine, and reduces the cystine content, which is already low in the soybean. Other carcinogens called nitrosamines are formed during high temperature spray drying.

Soybeans also contain high levels of phytic acid or phytates. This is an organic acid, present in the outer portion of all seeds, which blocks the uptake of essential minerals-calcium, magnesium, iron and especially zinc-in the intestinal tract. Soybeans have very high levels of a form of phytic acid that is particularly difficult to neutralize. As early as 1967, researchers testing soy formula found that it caused negative zinc balance in every infant to whom it was given. Scientists have found a strong correlation between phytate content in formula and poor growth, even when the diets were additionally supplemented with zinc. High amounts of phytic acid in soy foods and grains have caused retarded growth in children on macrobiotic diets. A reduced rate of growth is especially serious in the infant as it causes a delay in the accumulation of lipids in the myelin, and hence jeopardizes the development of the brain and nervous system.

Soy formula can also cause vitamin deficiencies. Soy increases the body's requirements for vitamin B12, a nutrient that is absolutely vital for good health. Early studies with soy formula indicated that soy blocks the uptake of fats. This may explain why soy seems to increase the body's requirements for fat-soluble vitamin D.

Aluminum content of soy formula is 10 times greater than milk based formula, and 100 times greater than unprocessed milk. Aluminum has a toxic effect on the kidneys of infants, and has been implicated as causing Alzheimer's in adults. Soy formulas lack cholesterol, another nutrient that is absolutely essential for the development of the brain and nervous system; they also lack lactose and galactose, which play an equally important role in the development of the nervous system. A number of other substances, which are unnecessary and of questionable safety, are added to soy formulas including carrageenan, guar gum, sodium hydroxide (caustic soda), potassium citrate monohydrate, tricalcium phosphate, dibasic magnesium phosphate trihydrate, BHA and BHT.

What about the claim that soy formula is less allergenic than cows milk formula? Studies indicate that allergies to soy are almost as common as those to milk. Use of soy formula to treat infant diarrhea has had mixed results, some studies showing improvement with soy formula while others show none at all.

The most serious problem with soy formula is the presence of phytoestrogens or isoflavones. While many claims have been made about the health benefits of these estrogen-like compounds, animal studies indicate that they are powerful endocrine disrupters that alter growth patterns and cause sterility. Toxicologists estimate 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 22,0000 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 may be as high as those of an adult male. During this period, the infant is programed 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 learning and the ability to perform visual discrimination tasks-such as would be required for reading-and retards the development of spatial perception, which is normally more acute in men than in women.

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 white 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 and a study in Puerto Rico implicated soy feeding as a cause of early menarche. The use of soy formula in the WIC program, which supplies free formula to welfare mothers, may explain the astronomical rates of early menarche in African American girls.

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.

Concerns about the dangers of soy have prompted consumer groups in New Zealand and Canada to call for a ban on the sale of soy infant formula. Milk-based formula contains a better protein profile and does not flood the infant with antinutrients and female hormones. Breast feeding is best IF the mother has consumed a healthy diet, one that is rich in animal proteins and fats, throughout her pregnancy and continues to do so while nursing her infant. Mothers who cannot breast feed, for whatever reason, should prepare homemade formula based on whole milk for their babies. The rare child allergic to whole milk formula should be given a whole foods meat-based formula, not one made of soy protein isolate. Parents who invest time in preparing homemade formula will be well rewarded with the joys of conferring robust good health on their children.

For references and further information on soy foods and soy formula, see or send $12 US to Soy Alert!, PMB #106-380, 4200 Wisconsin Avenue, NW, Washington DC 20007.

Recipes for homemade infant formula are on our website and also given in Nourishing Traditions, The Cookbook that Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats by Sally Fallon with Mary Enig, PhD. Available for $25 plus shipping and handling from NewTrends Publishing, Inc. (877) 707-1776, or

Copyright: ©1999 Sally Fallon. All Rights Reserved.

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Comments (20)Add Comment
Type 1 diabetes and soy milk
written by Rachel, Mar 01 2014
I feed my daughter organic soy milk recommended by ped at 6 months and she drank organic soy milk until 5 years old . The ped suggested it as she was underweight from not enough breastmilk. My daughter at 8years old was diagnosed with TYPE 1 DIABETES. I believe it was from the phytoestrogens in the soy milk changing the hormones in her endocrine system. I found this information about type 1diabetes online in a few articles. I wish I had known that in 1995 . Now I have a 3 month old I breastfeed and use cows milk formula but every formula on the shelf has soy in it. Does anyone know of a formula without any soy in it. I'm sure they add soy cause its cheap . I also worry how much soy is in the formula as crushed soy is yellow I know this cause I've fed crushed soy to my horses and I worry about the cows milk formula that has soy in it being a yellow colour they don't say what percentage is soy . I wish they would take the soy out of cows milk formulas its like they don't care at all
The Tragedy of Soy Infant Formula
written by Anita Joyce Thompson, Feb 12 2014
Goat's Milk was one that we could substitute for the first born son who was on an infant formula called Neutramigin. I may have misspelled that word. He seemed to have developed well. Our second born daughter was given a soy formula, but she had unexplained skin rashes, which are better now that she is 22. As a child my mother gave all her children cows' milk. We developed in the most healthy way. There are issues with soy period. My mother & her siblings were raised on GOAT'S MILK. My son loved it & the pediatrician recommended the goat's when we couldn't afford that expensive terrible tasting formula. By the way, he had milk allergies, breast milk included.
soy formula-fed son
written by Carmen, Oct 01 2013
My son was fed soy formula consistently in 1996-1997. He has had some digestive issues and is overweight but he seems to be built exactly like his father; 6'2", 220 lbs. He is extremely intelligent and has an amazing disposition (loves to talk and has no behavioral issues) so I have no complaints. I was 17 when I gave birth to him and it would've been nice if I had had someone educate me and offer guidance to help me produce more milk so I wouldn't have had to put him on formula in the first place. I would've done so many things differently if I had the knowledge then that I have now. The last thing I want is to see my son suffer for something I unknowingly did to him. He is 17 now, about to graduate HS.
written by Rebecca L., Aug 02 2013
I used to be a nurse and worked in pediatrics for a while, before soy formulas were popular. The studies done in the old days, which we went by, showed that the animal fat both in mother's milk and in infant formula was important in brain development. In fact, we were told giving babies regular milk before one year of age would be harmful to them. Then, after one year of age, whole milk products were needed, for the fat content, for the brain. I don't know of any studies done saying infants don't need cow formulas, and yet, soy formulas obviously don't have the concentrated animal fat like a cow based formula does, but they are approved by doctors. When did babies stop needing concentrated animal fat for brain development?
written by JS Pro, Jun 23 2013
I wonder if the issue with breast milk could have at least a little to do with the mother's diet? Doesn't it seem the least bit suspicious? That said I do not realise how widespread these issues are.

There are still other alternatives to milk... The main one would be coconut! Why is that never considered, is there something I'm missing?

And please! Earlier it was mentioned, "biased against soy"? Seems like that poster is selective to certain info herself!

A later poster also smacks of those who are so sure of their stance. That's illogical, we need to be open to many possibilities.
The Tragedy of Soy Infant Formula
written by Susan Vincent-Friedman, Jun 09 2013
My daughter was given soy formula as a baby, as she was highly allergic to cow's milk formula. Unfortunately at the time (early 1990's) there was very little else she could have had for infant formula, as there were few options. We did realize that she had an issue with the soy (upset stomach and vomiting), but what else could we have done? Our daughter also went through early puberty (age smilies/cool.gif and this was very alarming. She also developed very early on severe Asthma, GERD and IBS, was diagnosed at the age of 2 with Autism, and was later diagnosed with kidney disease (she needed a transplant in 2009)and a very rare neurological disorder. Our daughter had been a very premature infant (2 months early and only weighing 2 lbs.) and could not take breast milk as Mom was very ill and had been on several medications following an emergency C-section. Hindsight is a great thing, but here we are 22 years later and reading this article is quite upsetting as it is shocking. It's also difficult to know for certain, whether or not our daughter's issues were in fact caused by ingesting soy formula. We too have question several physician's over the years, that our daughter may have autoimmune issues. She certainly presents that way, but to date, no physician's want to pursue this route and tend to blame everything on her kidney issues.
written by Instacause, May 12 2013
While this article contains a few legitimate sounding concerns about infants and soy formula, it is wise to be an informed consumer. But to also be cautious where your information comes from. concerning all food products for our children as well as for ourselves.

All our food and drinks today contain many toxins. Do not think for a minute that cows milk is "pure" and therefore safe for our infants. Factory Farming in America today, including dairy production, is a nasty business. Cows are fed huge amounts of antibiotics and growth hormones, for faster fattening for beef production and other chemicals to increase milk production. Do not assume that soy alone is the culprit/cause of many of our children's developmental and behavioral issues. It clearly is not. We are all effected by the toxins which infuse our food supply today. Young babies and childrens' bodies are simply less able to handle them with out greater and even permanent damage. ADD/ADHD, OCD, Depression, Anxiety. You name it and most of us know a child suffering from it. Some never exposed to soy formula's as babies.
And good luck trying to find "organic" soy. It practically doesn't exist today, thanks to Monsanto's virtual ownership of GM soybean crops, worldwide. Who can, has or will scientifically study the risks of the genetic splicing process which created GM soy in the first place? The plant actually mutates, all by itself as the genetic splicing is not an exact/controllable process in soy. GM crops are a powerful industry. We have a government which won't even mandate food products be labeled as GM, so we may control some choice in what we eat. So, there we are. Soy is in many products we would not expect to find it.
My point is that blaming soy alone is irresponsible.

The best we can do is to educate ourselves and steer clear of scare tactic articles which point to one cause for a myriad of issues, brought about by our entire food supply today. Buy certified organic when possible. Joining a co-op near you can help keep costs more reasonable. From formula to teen meals and adult nutrition, every meal counts, in not only nourishment, but safety. We hear so much about nutrition today, but comparatively little about food safety. I'd like to see more articles in mainstream media about food safety and I'm not just talking about salmonella or E-coli contamination. Reliable, independent info about the contaminates and toxins literally floating in our food.

Choose all food products wisely and practice safe food handling at home when preparing meals and keep an eye on the safety of your water supply. Whether well water or a municipal supply.

If your baby seems to have food or drink allergies, your pediatrician is your best source for confirming that. But don't hesitate to ask why your ped recommends any particular product and how safe it is. Breastfeeding is preferred as long as we eat healthy, well balanced meals. It's the ideal as nature intended. Our babies will be exposed to a variety of unhealthy, unsafe foods all too soon in life and those formative years are crucial, nutritionally as well as nurturing, to help ensure good health and balance as they grow. Its the best we can do for our precious children and ourselves, in a world where we cannot turn back the clock to the good ole days where crops were by and large, organically grown. And when animals were raised for food, humanely and without heavy doses of chemicals and medicines, which end up right on our dinner plates. We must make the wisest choices possible and pay attention to "farm bills" and let our congress people know that we demand less toxic foods and less toxic production methods, whether plant or animal, and that we demand the right of "choice" with truthful labeling on all food products. Speaking out and lobbying for change is the only way we'll ever get there.

written by Leah, Feb 07 2013
I like how people believe that only the formula could be the factor to these childrens development. Most children on soy have allergies to milk which usually means an immature digestive system which means they already might have some thing wrong with their bodies make to contribute to this that causes problems later on. If you look at children who are allergic to milk, and not all were on soy milk they are more likely to have health and behavior issues. So soy is not the problem and is a better choice than the hypoallergenic super unnatural formula if you baby is allergic to milk and not allergic to soy.
written by Wallisha Berry, Jan 14 2013
I am an African American woman. I agree with the studies about WIC program because I have seen this to be true in my own immediate family. I did give my first born formula after 2 months of breastfeeding and of course he happens to be very bright but at 12 went through beginning stages of puberty at 10 and I contributed that to formula among other foods that I have cut out of his diet fast foods processed foods and meat a that are not open range
written by Christy, Dec 29 2012
My son was breastfed and I went through a spurt as to where I was not making enough milk so I substituted. I did half breastmilk that I pumped and half shot formula. My down has so many behavior and emotional issues that I am at a lost ad to what to do? We've been doing the therapy as well as medicine that is a non stimulate which I was against for 3 years. He was diagnosed with ADHD, sensory disorder and OCD. He had major anger problems as well as defying authoritiy and does not understand consequences. Now that I am reading this I tell this had to contribute but at the same time all of three issues ruin in both sides of his family so I can't really say what the cause was however had I known this I would have stayed away from soy. Now my daughter was raised on similac milk based formula and does not have the same issues besides anxiety but with me nipping out in the bus straight off she has developed a way to overcome and handle this. My non on the other had just doesn't seem to care what he will lose. I only chose the shot because it was three first one to come out with DHA and ARA and stated that it was the closest to breastmilk...I am so upset!!! This should have had more info out there for parents like me. I don't even know if my non would have tolerated milk based because it was not advertised as just like breastmilk. I really thought I was doing right by him, I ate right I follows all the rules he stayed on juice, water and milk until he turned 5 then he was introduced to his first soda and was very limited as to when he got that. Why don't the government care more about our children and our future???
written by Eleanor, Oct 21 2012
I agree with EC that the connection between the WIC program and the incidence of African Americans using soy formulas is racially stereotypical. Has any consideration been given to the fact that people of African descent have historically higher incidences of lactose intolerance and therefore (unknowingly) turn to soy when their infants are unable tolerate cow's milk based formulas?
written by Beth, Oct 19 2012
No one is concerned that cows milk is made for a baby COW and not a baby HUMAN?! We are vegetarian and eat/drink a lot of soy. My first son was fed soy formula from 9-14 months. We have had no issues whatsoever. I also find it funny that they "claim" soy formula is the cause of early puberty in girls when a few years back there was a study that found that the cause of early puberty was due to the growth hormones given to cows, pigs and chickens to make them ready for the market faster. I feel that this author was horribly biased against soy with no real information to back it up. Do your research before you blindly change something about your childs diet. Do NOT get all your info from this one source...its unreliable.
written by sherry C, Oct 15 2012
I have an 8 year old daughter who was diagnosed with Hashimoto's disease, 1 year ago. She was initially breastfed but I was having difficulty and she was underweight at 2 and 3 weeks of age. I tried a "free sample" of Enfamil Prosobee Soy and she drank it up and rested. Her gassiness was better, she seemed content. I discussed with the pediatrician at the time what I had tried and he told me that if she was taking the formula well and had no issues, then to keep her on it and supplement as needed. I was also given birth control pills which I was told would not affect my breastmilk supply. Well, that was a lie, I noticed very quickly that my limited supply dwindled even further. So, I stopped the pill, milk didn't seem to come back and we kept up with the soy milk. Although she grew well, she didn't get her 1st tooth till 10 months (delayed dentition is a symptom of hypothyroidism and her brother each sprouted teeth at 5 months) and she was sleepy. I mention this to the doc and he asked if thyroid issues ran in the family. I didn't know because I was adopted without a medical history. (I now know that adult onset hypothyroidism is extensive in my birth family). As she got older she was not exposed to soy milk, she was switched slowly to dairy at around 10 months. Around school age years she started having extremely dry skin on her hands that would crack. Then some attention issues at school. So we brought her to the doc, thinking she needs to "get tested". Her thyroid levels were off. Her doc didn't want to think there was a problem so she retested in 1 month, again it was off but a different value entirely. We were referred to an endocrinoligist who waited another month and again her labs were off with a different TSH value. The endo tested for antibodies and sure enough, she's positive. So not only do I sit here feeling horrible for her continuous symptoms and now medication she will be on for the rest of her life, I realize it didn't have to be this way. Please please please don't feed your child infant soy formula because you don't want to be in our shoes. That crap shouldn't be on the shelves. I wish I had only seen this information 8 years ago.
written by EC, Jun 23 2012
While I find value in this article, I am concerned and offended when the author implies that early development in African American girls is due to the free WIC program which offers soy formula. I would rather see the author show a broader range of girls affected. For ex., WIC is a class/income issue not a racial one. I have three girls. We grow our own garden, an organic one. We have read and apply the principles of Eat Fat Lose Fat and Nourishing Traditions. We are members of an Amish food network supplying raw foods. Each baby was nursed. Each of the girls are tall, strong and solid (more so compared to their peers who eat processed foods). Our girls are athletic, bright and beautiful! Be careful perpetuating stereotypes!
Fed soy as a baby
written by Shannonh, Jun 08 2012
I was fed soy as an infant as i could not tolerate milk. I have had no issues whatsoever. I got my period at 13 years old, did not start developing breasts until about that age. I have no thyroid issues. My periods are consistent. I have not yet tried to have a baby, but everything seems to be developing as it should. Hopefully I do not develop cancer or any other abnormalities.
written by Malee, May 11 2012
My baby is now 8 month and was breastfed until 7 months. I feel my breast milk was not enough and also to prepare to go back to work so I breastfeed in the morning and night time and feed him soy based formula during the day. It is great to come across this article. I am now considering changing his formula to cow's one. I don't know yet if my baby is ok with cow's formula. But reading this, I want to stop using soy milk. The reason I used soy based from the start is because my doctor suggested to feed the baby soy milk because it prevents allergies.
written by Alyssa, Mar 20 2012
Reading this made me feel hurt and very upset. I gave my son soy formula as a baby. He got a horrible rash and loose bloody stools when I tried to wean him from breast feeding at four months. I was on WIC and they assured me that soy formula was the answer. My son is seven now, he has Type 1 Diabetes, he also suffers from ADD, gets sick all the time, is flamboyant, socially delayed, very emotional, and loves the color pink...
written by drjohn, Feb 15 2011
I reiterate the plea of ms Goolsby (commenting above) what do we do to put out the fire that we unknowingly started within our little girl. Despite tons of activity and trainers she can't lose weight.
written by FM, Jan 27 2011
I thank you so much for this info.My child could not digest milk so he was put on soy formula at 3 months old. He had severe reflux and could not keep breast milk or regular milk down. There are developmental issues with my son but he stopped drinking it at 10 or 11 years old.He has Gynecomastia and his sexual organ does look smaller than he is.He is 16 yrs old now and is 6'2. I want to know can he recover from this and why the medical community did not take me serious when I would say something is just not right. This info on your website is so valuable.
written by Diana Goolsby, Dec 04 2010
Thank you for this information. In 1986 my sister had a baby girl who could not breast feed, or consume cow's milk. That baby was placed on soy formula. My sister passed away when that baby, my niece, was 4 years of age and I basically have watched that child become a young woman. It has not been an easy road for that child. I always instinctively thought that this child's issues were directed from the soy formula that she consumed during her infant-hood. Almost all of what you describe in your article has and is occurring to her currently. Due to your studies as well as others, understanding now comes to validation. But, what now? What can I help with in order to rectify her life. What can I do to help this child/adult now to be what is known to be normal and what she has always desired. She has been damaged, and struggles with all her after effects of soy. Where is the compensation for what this child has gone through and in her future? What can we do? Do you have any advice on where we can go for support? I do sincerely thank you deeply.
Diana Goolsby

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Last Updated on Wednesday, 08 April 2009 15:57