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Am J Clin Nutr. 2009 May;89(5):1668S-1672S. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.2009.26736U. Epub 2009 Apr 8.

The health implications of soy infant formula.

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Arkansas Children's Nutrition Center and the Departments of Pediatrics, University of Arkansas for Medical Science, Little Rock, AR, USA.


Soy formula (SF) has been fed to millions of infants worldwide. It has been shown to promote growth and development as well as milk-based formula (MF). Controversy has developed over the adequacy and safety of SF. Most concerns are based on in vivo and in vitro data that raise the possibility of estrogenic effects of isoflavones contained in SF. There are few studies of children who were fed SF, and thus insufficient data are available to judge if SF feeding results in clinically significant developmental effects and if there are any long-term health consequences (adverse or beneficial). However, the Arkansas Children's Nutrition Center is conducting a prospective longitudinal study comparing growth, development, and health of breastfed children with formula-fed (SF and MF) children from birth through age 6 y. After 5 y of study, children in all 3 groups (n > 300) are growing and developing within normal limits, and there are no indications of adverse effects in the soy-fed children. Neonatal pig studies comparing SF, MF, and breast milk (BM) have shown diet-specific gene expression profiles in various target tissues. Therefore, although SF differed significantly from BM, MF also differed from BM, and SF differed from MF. Nonetheless, these animals grew and developed normally, and SF piglets had several health benefits (eg, increased bone quality) and no observable adverse effects. Thus, to date, our results suggest that SF supports normal growth and may have advantages in promoting bone development.

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