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Soy Unsafe for Children

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By Randall Neustaedter OMD

Soy beans and soy products are not appropriate foods for infants or children, not tofu, soy milk, or soy formula, not soy hot dogs, sausages, soyburgers, or textured vegetable protein. Not ever. Although soy has been promoted as a health food and an excellent alternative protein source with numerous health benefits, the proven adverse health effects of soy on children far outweigh any positive or philosophical reasons to eat soy products. Soy proponents claim that soy can lower cholesterol, prevent heart disease and breast cancer, and reduce bone loss in menopause. Farmers are cautioned not to feed growing domestic animals a diet high in soy protein. Pigs, whose digestive tracts are very similar to humans, are allowed only one percent of their feed as soy because of the risk of adverse effects on digestion and immune function (Bee, 2000).

Soy product consumption has been linked to a long list of diseases and hormone dysfunctions in children including thyroid  disease, mineral malabsorption, diabetes, and abnormal sexual development. Here is the evidence that you should not feed your children soy products. Soy foods depress thyroid function. This depression of the thyroid gland is capable of inducing a hypothyroid state, autoimmune thyroid disease, and goiter (swelling of the thyroid gland). Soybeans contain compounds that inhibit thyroid peroxidase- (TPO) catalyzed reactions that are essential for the production of thyroid hormone (Divi, 1997).

Soy formula feeding in infants is associated with thyroid disease. A  review of children with autoimmune thyroid disease showed that these children had a higher frequency of soy formula feeding in infancy than their siblings or healthy control children (Fort, 1997).

Soy formula feeding is associated with hormone disruption. A study conducted in Puerto Rico of children with premature breast  development found an association between the affected children under two years of age and soy-based formula as well as the consumption of meat products (Freni-Titulaer, 1986). Phytoestrogens (isoflavones) in  soy products disrupt fertility (Irvine, 1995) and lower testosterone levels (Sharpe, 2002). Some researchers are concerned that soy formula given to infants can disrupt hormones at a crucial time for the  programming of a baby's reproductive development. The testosterone surge in the first few months of life programs male infants for puberty and sexual development. If receptor sites intended for the hormone  testosterone are occupied by soy estrogens, appropriate development may not take place (Santti, 1998; Winter, 1976).

Soy interferes with calcium, magnesium, zinc, and iron absorption.  Phytic acid blocks the uptake of essential minerals in the intestinal tract, and soy has one of the highest phytic acid levels of any grain or legume (Reddy, 2002). Only fermentation of soy products in the preparation of  miso, soy sauce, and tempeh removes the phytates responsible for mineral depletion.

Soy feeding in infancy has been linked to diabetes. When reviewing the  feeding histories of 95 diabetic children, twice as many of the children with diabetes received soy formula in infancy compared to children in the control group (Fort, 1986). The American Academy of Pediatrics advised against the use of soy formula due to the diabetes risk (AAP, 1994).

Beware of soy additives in processed or packaged foods. Processed soy goes by several names including textured soy protein, soy protein isolate (SPI), and soy isoflavones. These ingredients are added to many health food products and protein supplements. Soy is a primary ingredient of low-carb diet foods and protein bars. It is added to prepared frozen meals, ice cream, breads, and canned foods. Read ingredient list labels and avoid soy fortified foods and these protein substitutes for your children.

Problems with soy

Depresses thyroid function
Disrupts sex hormone functions
Blocks calcium and other mineral absorption
Linked to diabetes, breast cancer, and leukemia

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