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Infant soy formula - safe for babies?

The safety of infant soy formula for babies is highly controversial. And there have not been many long-term scientific studies to gauge its effects on a child's development.

Most medical authorities say it is safe. But some pediatricians advise that soy formula should be given only to babies that are lactose-intolerant, meaning they are unable to digest infant formula made from cow's milk.

In countries like Israel, infant soy formula is available only on medical prescription

Some consumer groups, however, are so concerned about its potential harm that they have called for these soy-based infant foods to be banned.

Despite these controversies, formula soy milk for babies have become big business, accounting for about 12 percent of all infant formula sold worldwide. In the United States, it is estimated that up to 25 percent of babies are given soy infant formula.

The popularity of infant soy formula is due partly to aggressive promotion by the soy industry. Apparently, some of the early advertising campaigns even touted soy infant formula as being "better than breast milk".

Soy formula is also popular with vegetarians and vegans, who usually favour it for supposedly "ethical" - not health - reasons.

Female hormones

The main concern over infant soy formula is over its high content of phytoestrogens or isoflavones. These are natural plant chemicals that mimic the effects of estrogen, a female hormone. Although phytoestrogens are present in all grains, legumes and other plant foods, soy beans contain more phytoestrogens than any other plant foods.

These "plant hormones" are themselves controversial. On the one hand, they are credited with many of the benefits of soy, including its role in preventing various cancers. On the other hand, phytoestrogens are also blamed for many of the dangers of soy, including possibly increasing the risks of certain cancers.

Other issues associated with soy foods include:

The soy formula industry is aware of thse problems and has been trying to solve them. To minimise trypsin inhibitors, for example, manufacturers put the product through a long, extreme high heat process. This does not completely elimiate trypsin inhibitors. Yet it changes the nature of soy protein in a way that could possibly be harmful.

The above are just general problems with soy foods consumed by ADULTS. With babies, the problems are greatly amplified because infant formula is their main, or even only, food. A baby taking infant soy formula is therefore exposed to many many times the risks of soy compared to adults who eat soy foods.

In various articles on this subect, Sally Fallon and Dr Mary Enig of the Weston Price Foundation write: 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.

Commenting on this, Sally Fallon and Dr Mary Enig add: Toxicologists estimate that an infant exclusively fed soy formula receives the estrogenic equivalent of at least five birth control pills per day.

Remember. These phytoestrogens / isoflavones act like FEMALE HORMONES. What is the effect of giving babies large doses of female hormones at an early age?

For girls, it could mean early onset of puberty. Already, this is widely observed. In extreme cases, girls have been reported to develop breasts and/or pubic hair as young as three years old. Soy infant formula may not be the only cause, but it is believed to be a major factor.

For boys, the result could be delayed puberty and under-development of the male sexual organs as well as other masculine traits. They could grow up with more "feminine" qualities. Again, this is widely observed.

There may not be sceintific studies that conclusively show infant soy formula to be the cause of such developments. In fact, on of the criticisms of soy formula is that no (or very few) studies have been done on their long-term effects. Almost certainly, that there are other causes or contributing factors. But when a baby food floods the blood stream with such extreme levels of phytoestrogens that act as female hormones, the outcome cannot be good.

The basic ingredient

While most of the controversy surrounding infant soy formula revolves around soy phytoestrogens, there is another disturbing factor that is less frequently highlighted - the basic ingredient for making this baby food.

You will be naive to think that soy formula is made from soy beans. No. It is made from a much cheaper and more convenient product called soy protein isolate. This is a very heavily processed, highly artificial form of soy. If you know what is soy protein isolate, you will understand why infant soy formula cannot be good.

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