Saturday, July 4, 2009

Is infant soy formula better than milk-based formula?

Dear Monique, I have a baby girl on the way and I was seriously thinking about getting baby formula made from soy, in particular Enfamil Probee. I was wondering if there were any studies or research that you knew of that showed baby formula made from soy was better for babies than regular formula that's made from dairy product. I am a vegetarian and believe strongly in good health and healing properties of soy. I eat a lot of soy foods myself and know that soy and soy protein are alot better for you than milk and meat proteins. I would greatly appreciate your response and want to pass this information on to others. Thanx, Veggy

Answer: Breast feeding is considered the best method of providing nutrition to babies. However, for various reasons many women feed their infants formula and for vegetarian mothers soy-based formula is their main option.

The August 15, 2001 issue of the "Journal of the American Medical Association" (JAMA Vol. 286, No. 7: 807-814) reported good news about the long-term effects of soy-based baby formula. According to this report, soy-based infant formula is as safe as traditional milk-based formula.

The report was based on a "retrospective"study conducted at the University of Iowa in 1999. The National Institutes of Health and a grant from the International Formula Council sponsored it. The study included adults between the ages of 20 to 34 who, as infants from 1965 to 1978, participated in controlled feeding studies at the University of Iowa. Of the 811 men and women who participated, 248 were fed soy formula as infants and 563 were fed cow milk formula.

The objective was to find out if exposure to soy-based formula as an infant had a negative impact in health in young adulthood. They compared the two groups as adults to see if any significant differences existed between them. Dr. Brian Strom of the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, chief author of the report, and his colleagues based their conclusion upon 30 measurements. They analyzed puberty and sexual development; menstruation, fertility and reproductive history; height, weight, and current health. The researchers also asked the men and women in the study about cancer, sexual orientation and education.

No significant differences were observed between the participants. Their outcomes were virtually identical. The study concluded that exposure to soy-based infant formula does not appear to have an adverse effect on general health or reproductive outcomes later in life.

The study also indicated that about 20 percent of American infants are fed soy formula at some time during the first year of life. In fact, I was feed soy-based formula as a baby. Due to birthing complications, my mother was placed on antibiotics and other medications, and was unable to breast feed. I was not able to tolerate milk-based formulas and was placed on soy formula. I can personally say that I have suffered no ill effects as an adult because I was a soy-based baby.

The American public has used soy-based infant formulas for more than sixty years. During this time, much scientific research and clinical observations have scrutinized the safety and long-term effects of soy-based formulas. Besides the positive findings reported in JAMA, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) also supports the use of soy formulas when children cannot consume breast milk or cow's milk-based formula.

According to the AAP Nutrition Handbook, "Today, soy formulas constitute approximately 25% of all formulas sold and support growth equivalent to that of breastfed and cow's milk-based formula-fed infants." In terms of safety, the Food & Drug Administration highly regulates infant formulas. Additionally, USDA researchers are finding that consuming soy-based formula may even protect infants against many chronic diseases.

For more information on research regarding soy-based infant formulas, contact the International Formula Council by phone at 404-252-3663, by E-mail at or visit their website at

For more information about soy,
visit the
Virtues of Soy website,

For more information about raising vegetarian and vegan babies, read "Vegetarian Diets for Children: Right from the Start" at
and the book
Dr. Spock's Baby and Child Care(8th edition)

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Monique N. Gilbert, BSc. has offered guidance in health, nutrition, fitness and stress management since 1989. Through her writings, Monique motivates and teaches how to improve your well-being, vitality and longevity with balanced nutrition, physical activity and healthy stress-free living.

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