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Dangers of Soy in Children's Diets

Updated on February 4, 2013
Marye Audet profile image

Marye Audet-White is an internationally known food writer, food editor for Texas Living, cookbook author, and food blogger.

Many people have been led to believe that soy products are not only heallthy for children, but that they are healthier thandairy products from animal origins such as cows' and goats' milk.

Soy products are now found in nearly everything imaginable, including "health food" items. Soy milk is mainstream and available in grocery stores everywhere in many different flavors. Even many baby foods and baby formulas are soy based.

Is it really a healthy product for children and adults?

Soy Plant
Soy Plant

Dangers of Soy

Soy products, any soy product, contain a number of chemical compounds that are actually toxic to both humans and animals. They are often called "anti-nutrients". ANti- utrient is merely a word coined by the soy industry to refer to a compound that is bad for you.

These anti-nutrients act in such a way as to block other nutrients from entering the body. In other words, at their best the soy priducts are creating a nutritional deficiency. Soy toxins, such as phytic acid, a protease inhibitor, also target certain organs, cells and enzymes.

Protease inhibitors keep the enzymes of the body from breaking down protein properly so that the body is actually in a quasi-malnourished state and protein deficient. The Food and Drug Administration has not established safe levels for protease inhibitors even though there have been numerous studies on the effects of soy toxins in rats.

In these studies the rats became more susceptible to pancreatic cancer and pancreatic problems which supressed the immune system allowing various other cancers to become established. When the research was made public and presented to the US FDA their response was that it was non-conclusive since the study had been done on rats rather than humans. They stated that because a rat's system is different than a human's the study was invalid. This is interesting since most of the research currently done is done on rats and's validity is accepted by all government organizations.

The Toxins in Soy

The toxins found in soy are:

  • Soyatoxin

  • Protease inhibitors
  • Phytic acid
  • Soy lectins
  • Nitrosamines
  • Maganese concentration levels

In fact, all soy prodicts with the exception of soy lecithin contain some level of toxin whether it is marked certified organic or just in the feed that fed the chicken that you ate for dinner.

The Effects of Soy on Children

The most people most affected in the population are infants and children.

The soy plant absorbs large amounts of manganese from the soil that it is planted in. Some maganese is important for nutrition but excessive amounts in the body are linked with neurological damage. In fact, soy formulas have nearly two hundred times the maganese of breast milk.

Some researchers have stated that for every eight babies that are given soy based infant formula for six months or more at least on will have behavior problems that may not become apparent until adolescence.

But that isn't all. Soy also contains plant based hormones which mimic the hormone estrogen. These hormones are called phyto-estrogens. This is why women are counselled to eat soy during menopause to replace some of the estrogen that is being lost. It eases the symptoms.

What does estrogen do in children?

Phytoestrogens are linked to pre-adolescent sexual development of girls. Pediatricians are reporting increasing incidences of girls with breast development and pubic hair before they are eight years old. The combination of the numerous phytoestrogens in the environment and the hormone filled animal products that are consumed are creating a very premature adolescence in girls.

But what about phytoestrogens in boys?

Estrogen inhibits the normal testosterone development in boys and men. Boy babies go through a cycle in the first three months of life when testosterone surges through their bodies. It is normal and their testosterone levels can be, for a brief period of time, as high as that of an adult male. It is during this time that many of the male characteristics are "programmed" into the brain. Their bodies are "programmed" to have certain characteristics and behaviors after puberty. This surge more or less defines adult male behavior.

If the testosterone is inhibited during these surges than the behaviors may not develop properly, or at all.

Imagine what would happen if you gave your thirteen year old son your hormone replacement therapy pills, or your infant your birth control? Babies fed soy based infant formulas are estimated to receive the equivalent of five birth control pills a day in female hormones. Researchers have found up to 22,000 times more estrogen compounds in the bodies of these babies than those who are fed either breast milk or traditional formulas.


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    • profile image


      6 years ago

      If giving soy to your baby boys is like giving 5 birth controls pills...then giving this product in formula , I believe have messed alot of boys when it comes to homosexuality. You have people say that they have been thia way all their life... if this is the case then they have and it's no fault of their own. Can you imagine how many birth controls pills was given in each bottle of formula for at least a year? something to really really think about!!!!

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      I was terrified reading this. I fed soy to my son from 2 months old to 8yrs! And I can tell his body has became a little feminine. I just hope it will pass after puberty.

    • Marye Audet profile imageAUTHOR

      Marye Audet 

      6 years ago from Lancaster, Texas

      Trust the USDA? Genetic modifications, pay-offs, poor inspections... the USDA is not concerned about my family's health nearly as much as I am.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      why not trust the USDA? the Stanford University also sites 20 other healthy substances that pose a threat to health, seems like how the article was made out to look like, a "bet you didn't know" type of thing made to shock people, too sensationalist with the come on that the government is not to trusted, are fools, blah blah; seems like what most universities like to do

    • Marye Audet profile imageAUTHOR

      Marye Audet 

      6 years ago from Lancaster, Texas

      How about Stanford University? You will need to scroll down the page to Soy Products are Toxic “Health Foods” And.. would you really give a baby phyto-estrogens? If these plant based estrogens help women in menopause don't you think they "might" create problems in humans that aren't meant to have estrogens? Children are reaching puberty at earlier ages, there is more infertility and sexual problems than ever... Personally it isn't a risk I would want to take with my child... and I trust science just fine.. it is the USDA that I have no trust for.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Interesting if it is true. I note a lack of any citation to reliable scientific or conventional medical references. I mean that's fine if you don't believe or trust science, but some of us do.

    • mobias profile image


      6 years ago from Forest Grove, OR

      Great hub Marye, having young ones at home, and the two younger ones strangely allergic/more sensitive to different foods, I'm really starting to delve into the disgusting world which is America’s 'food' production. The more you research, the madder you get at our worthless FDA! It all seems to boil down to money greasing each others palms, getting chemical laden and dangerous foods on our shelves, at the expense, and weight gain, of Americans every single day! Europe banned Soy-based infant formula! What does that tell us! They don't let anything onto their shelves to the public unless it's proven NOT to negatively impact their health. The exact opposite of our FDA. Thanks for the article and I will research further into this.

    • geekchickrys profile image


      6 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina

      I am soy allergic and realized IT IS IN EVERYTHING! how much more can my thyroid take?

    • profile image

      Johnny Dough 

      7 years ago

      Sounds great!!! Sign me up

    • Marye Audet profile imageAUTHOR

      Marye Audet 

      7 years ago from Lancaster, Texas

      Don't worry about it at this point. Do some research on your own and go from there

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I gaved soy milk to my son for 2 years, because I was advised to do so,

      What could I have donde to him in those two years>

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      A few times throughout this article you made reference to "researchers" yet failed to cite who these researchers are and what type of research was being performed. I am interested in reading this "research" for myself - as anything can be taken out of context.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      This is the biggest reason I will not give my dogs or my rats any soy based foods. Overall they eat better than I do. I don't drink milk or eat any high-in-soy products either. Thank you for the article!


    • profile image


      7 years ago

      This strikes me as ill-informed and reactionary. There are measurable levels of BGH in most milk too...

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Nice article! Very informative.

    • Marye Audet profile imageAUTHOR

      Marye Audet 

      7 years ago from Lancaster, Texas

      yes, and they have a coconut milk product out now as well, that is ogranic

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Thank you for your reply. What about almond milk ? Is it a healthy and comprable alternative ?

    • Marye Audet profile imageAUTHOR

      Marye Audet 

      7 years ago from Lancaster, Texas

      Shaye, if she is allergic to cows milk then you don't have much choice. You have to weight the information. In your case soy is the lesser of two evils.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      My daughter is 3, & has been on soy milk for most of her life. She has had all kinds of problems; constipation, hyperactive, etc.. we went off cow milk due to colic. Soy seemed to work great. I have caught a lot of flack over having her on soy. Recently I tried switching her back to cow milk, & the stomach problems returned. Now as she sits next to me drinking soy milk, I read that what she's ingesting could give her cancer, early puberty, etc.. My concern/question (to anyone with an intelligent,educated answer) is: have I messed my daughter up permanently. If the research is true, is there a way to counterattack the damage that may have been done. If she stops soy now will it change the potentially harmful effects.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      We switched our 2 1/2 year old son from cow milk to soy milk about 7 months ago (we are vegan). Over this 7 month period he became very withdrawn and anti-social. 2 weeks ago we eliminated soy from his diet and he is a new kid. He is running around, socializing and acting like a normal 2 year old. Coincidence...hard to say but we aren't taking any chances with his health. There are plenty of milk alternatives on the market and if you have the time they are pretty easy to make at home. As a vegan who avoids soy products we are also avoiding all the processed foods.

    • profile image

      Junah Caspit 

      8 years ago

      Hi. I'm from the Philippines and Taho (silken/soft tofu) is a staple food in our country. I feed this to my 19month-old son since he was about 7mos. This is the first time I heard soy as a bad food for children. We, as children ate Taho also. And my pediatrician gave me the go signal as it is a rich source of protein.

    • MoonSafari profile image


      8 years ago from Where if it is above 32, it's Spring!!!

      Soy based infant formula has been outlawed in Europe but can still be found in formula in the States.

    • WallStickerDecals profile image


      8 years ago from US

      Ah ja ja, I have been letting my 3 year old drink a little bit of Soy as his father drinks it and always wants "Daddy's milk". We did look on the ingredients recently and realised that it wasn't as high in calcium as the regular cows milk, so have been trying to curb his fascination with the milk. The one we buy here in South America also has sugar in it, so no wonder he likes it better.

      It is a tough decision to make to know what is right and wrong as even cows milk, isn't exactly good for humans. Water!

    • ambieca profile image


      8 years ago from Pennsylvania

      i also had to give my babies soy formula, they have had no problems. if this soy is so dangerous why is it on the market as a healthy alternative to milk based?

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      So my question is this: If you have a child with a deadly milk allergy, what do you feed them?

      It's all well and good to hypothesize over the people who choose to eat soy, but what about the children who will die if they eat ANY dairy product? My daughter has been hospitalized 5 times due to the ignorance of others thinking she can have "a little bit" or that my insistence she is allergic is just an exaggeration. You offer no alternatives in your article to soy. I basically summarized that according to your ideals, I can either give my child milk and have her die - OR I can give her soy and have her develop cancer. Thanks.

    • Marye Audet profile imageAUTHOR

      Marye Audet 

      9 years ago from Lancaster, Texas

      Ummm..Erin? Did you see the links under the VIDEO? The one that says RESEARCH? There are rather a lot of sources and studies there. Everyone certainly has a right to their opinion..but at least make sure your facts are straight before attacking mine..

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      I notice in your hub, you cite no sources. Phytoestrogens as you say mimic estrogens, are plant based estrogens, and function differently in humans. There really is no conclusive evidence to what you say.

    • Marye Audet profile imageAUTHOR

      Marye Audet 

      9 years ago from Lancaster, Texas

      Actually Erin, this is an issue I have researched for over 15 years. I can cite more refrences if you however cited none.

      Perhaps anyone can write anything is even easier to make comments.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      this article quotes a vast number of inaccuracies, and goes to show that anyone can write anything online. I encourage those of you taking this as gospel to seek more accurate forms of information. Knowledge is power, the more you know, the further in life you'llgo.

    • Mama Maria profile image

      Mama Maria 

      9 years ago from Georgia

      I have a good friend who's daughter has a soy allergy and I will be forwarding your hub link to her. Thanks!

    • Anna Marie Bowman profile image

      Anna Marie Bowman 

      9 years ago from Florida

      Thank you very much, Marye!! This was very informative and helpful!! Just the information I needed!!

    • blogit2050 profile image


      9 years ago from india

      nice hub....great information...thanks for the hard work

    • Aya Katz profile image

      Aya Katz 

      9 years ago from The Ozarks


      Just wanted to let you know I've linked to this hub in my new one about milk.

    • Karlyn profile image


      10 years ago from

      Yes, this is a VERY good hub.  Thanks for getting this message out there!  I have actually heard about the dangerous effects of soy products, especially in children. Children and seniors are the  most vulnerable to disease and unfortunately, they are fed the most soy products, because those giving it to them believe that they have the least amount of harmful products in them.  Unfortunately, that's not the case.

      The japanese people at one point (I don't know if they still are) was considered to have the largest amount of healthy people who had the highest life expectancy in their country.  The reason for this is due to the soy products and such that they were eating.  Well, their soy was the natural, fermented soy. 

      The soy that is, unfortunately, mainly sold in the U.S. are the unfermented soy, which carry a lot of harmful ingredients.  This type of soy are being said to have such side effects as brain defects and other health issues.  That is why a larger number of children are  having problems at such young age. 

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      I take this information particular also for my children and others around me. Thanks very very much for your wise articles.

    • earnestshub profile image


      10 years ago from Melbourne Australia

      I do like hubs that help protect our little ones. My daugter has 3 little ones and she has very similar beliefs about soy being dangerous.

      Thank you for expanding on the little I had been told till now

      All information about children getting safer and better nutrition is a big plus in my book.

    • Aya Katz profile image

      Aya Katz 

      10 years ago from The Ozarks

      Marye, great hub! Very informative. I think the movement against milk is getting out of hand. They are starting to say that no animal should consume milk besides its own mother's milk -- not even cats. Where is this coming from?

      On the other hand, I'm wondering what people in East Asian countries do to counteract the negative effects of soy? Do they know something about how to handle it safely as a major part of their diet?

    • Marye Audet profile imageAUTHOR

      Marye Audet 

      10 years ago from Lancaster, Texas

      Blogging, I did a hub on vaccines called: eeny meeny miney mo


    • blogging2 profile image

      Rebecca Jones 

      10 years ago from Florida

      Wonderful article and I am glad to see others noting the dangers of the "health kick" currently going on.  The hardest thing for most of us right now is realizing that EVERYTHING we see and read is designed to target our "nurturing" instincts.  I am not a conspiracy theorist or anything like that, just simple math.  Companies pay BIG money to make us think something is good for us.  They have a lot of money invested in it.  Luckily we have close friends who are "in the know" on these things and when they say something really prevalant that I have not seen elsewhere I try to write about it, but it is so hard now since so many things are really not what we think or are led to believe. I would love to see a hub from you about vaccines, I know you do extensive research and I would like to hear your take on them (mine is out there, but I am always looking for more information from people who actually take the time to research not just spit out info!) 

      Great hub!  Can't wait to read more!

    • Marye Audet profile imageAUTHOR

      Marye Audet 

      10 years ago from Lancaster, Texas

      Those cultures do not eat it in the extreme quantities that people in the US do.

    • lgyre profile image


      10 years ago from Pittsburgh

      I'm not extremely informed on this issue, but I think it's worth noting that in cultures with a tradition of using soy products, many of them were fermented. In general, fermenting definitely helps break down difficult foods and make them more digestible, so I wonder how this relates to fermented soy products such as tempeh and live culture soy yoghurt.

    • marketingcoach profile image


      10 years ago from Georgia

      Very informative article. I'll pass it along to parents who have young kids.

      Thank you.


    • Bob Ewing profile image

      Bob Ewing 

      10 years ago from New Brunswick

      I use soy milk now and then but prefer rice milk; something to consider here.

    • t.keeley profile image


      10 years ago from Philadelphia, PA

      Thank you very much for this article! It's refreshing to hear someone other than myself rave against the dangers of soy, and especially against the "health" food market!

    • Chef Jeff profile image

      Chef Jeff 

      10 years ago from Universe, Milky Way, Outer Arm, Sol, Earth, Western Hemisphere, North America, Illinois, Chicago.

      Our kids are grown up now, but in case they have kids, I'll remember this. I'll also pass it along to others I know with young children.


    • Jennifer profile image


      10 years ago

      This is a very interesting article Marye. I have a daughter who has a milk, egg and beef allergy and she eats soy a good bit. She drinks the milk and eats soy yogurt. Here I thought it was a better alternative for her. Thank you.


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