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Int J Psychophysiol. 2013 Dec;90(3):311-20. doi: 10.1016/j.ijpsycho.2013.10.001. Epub 2013 Oct 11.

Infant diet, gender and the normative development of vagal tone and heart period during the first two years of life.

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Arkansas Children's Nutrition Center, 15 Children's Way, Little Rock, AR 72202, USA; Department of Pediatrics, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, 4301 W. Markham St., Little Rock, AR 72205, USA. Electronic address:


Relationships between early postnatal diet and the development of cardiac regulation were studied using resting vagal tone and heart period measures obtained quarterly during infancy and at 2years in 158 breast-fed, 159 milk formula-fed, and 148 soy formula-fed infants. Both measures increased across time for all groups. Heart period was greater in boys than in girls-particularly in soy-fed infants. Higher vagal tone in girls than in boys was not strongly influenced by diet. At 1 and 2years measures differed among boys (soy-fed>breast-fed) but not among girls. Earlier slowing in breast-fed than in formula-fed infants in the rate of increase in vagal tone during infancy suggests that the timing of this developmental shift is sensitive to early infant diet. Finally, the findings do not indicate atypical development of cardiac activity in soy-fed infants that might be associated with estrogenic compounds in this formula.


Development; Gender; Heart period; Infant diet; Soy; Vagal tone

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