One of the very first decisions you'll make as a parent is how to feed your new baby. We are 100% Team Feed Them, and whether you choose to breastfeed or formula-feed, your choice is the right one for your family. There are definitely benefits to both, but formula families face an added expense that can be hard to manage. There's also the chance the baby will need a special type of formula, because of allergies or feeding issues. There are several different kinds of formula available to families to meet their needs. Soy formula is a popular choice among families who follow a vegan or vegetarian diet, or for babies with lactose intolerance. But a new study claims that soy formula could lead to some upsetting side effects later in life. It's definitely the kind of information families need to be made aware of.
The study, published in the journal Human Reproduction, has found a link between soy formula and an increased risk of heavy and/or painful menstruation in adulthood. Researchers at National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), part of the National Institutes of Health, along with collaborators from Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee, and the Henry Ford Health System in Detroit, studied data from 1,553 African American women between the ages of 25-35.
They found that women who'd been given soy formula as infants were 50% more likely to have experienced moderate to severe period discomfort between the ages of 18-22. Those women were also 40% more likely to use hormonal contraceptives, like the pill, to alleviate their discomfort. They also found a link between soy formula and endometriosis.
The data, while concerning, isn't exactly surprising. Soy is what's considered an endocrine disruptor, meaning that it can interfere with the body's reproductive system development. Soy contains something called isoflavons, which mimic estrogen and act as impostors of naturally-occurring hormones. These isoflavons can disrupt hormone production, as well as change the actual chemical message that our hormones send to the rest of our body.
Animal studies have shown that the main isoflavon in soy, called genistein, can actually trigger early puberty in mice. It can also affect fetal development, and have a negative impact on fertility.
As of now, the American Academy of Pediatrics is not changing it's recommendations on soy formula. The AAP contends that soy formula is an option for vegetarian families or babies who can't break down milk sugars. If your baby drinks soy formula, it may be worth talking to your doctor about other, safer alternatives.