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Acta Paediatr Suppl. 2003 Sep;91(441):93-100.

Soy-based formulas and phyto-oestrogens: a safety profile.

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Dipartimento di Biomedicina dell'Età Evolutiva, University of Bari, Italy.


Phyto-oestrogens are non-steroidal plant-derived compounds that possess oestrogenic activity and act as selective oestrogen receptor modulators (SERMs). Among the dietary oestrogens, the isoflavone class enjoy a wide-spread distribution in most of the members of the Leguminosae family, including such prominent high-content representatives as soybean. Phyto-oestrogen research has grown rapidly in recent years owing to epidemiological studies suggesting that diets rich in soy may be associated with potential health benefits. There is a paucity of data on endocrine effects of soy phytochemicals during infancy, the most sensitive period of life for the induction of toxicity. The safety of isoflavones in infant formulas has been questioned recently owing to reports of possible hormonal effects. Infants fed soy formula receive high levels of phyto-oestrogens in the form of isoflavones (genistein, daidzein and their glycosides). To date, no adverse effects of short- or long-term use of soy proteins have been observed in humans and exposure to soy-based infant formulas does not appear to lead to different reproductive outcomes than exposure to cow milk formulas. Soy formula seems to be a safe feeding option for most infants. Nevertheless, much closer studies in experimental animals and human populations exposed to phyto-oestrogen-containing products, and particularly soy-based infant formulas, are necessary.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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