Two studies by University of Illinois food science and human nutrition professor Sharon Donovan show that the soy isoflavone genistein, in amounts present in commercial soy infant formulas, may inhibit intestinal cell growth in babies. So what are we to think about soy in a baby’s diet?
Donovan said it’s an important question to ask because almost 25 percent of formula-fed babies in the United States consume soy formula. Although babies on soy formula appear to grow normally, these formulas contain very high concentrations of genistein, from 32 to 45 milligrams, which is higher than the amount found to affect menstrual cycles in women, she said. "I’m struck by the fact that these babies are receiving isoflavones at such high concentrations," Donovan said. "Formula is the sole source of nutrition for these infants for the first four to six months of life, when so many important organ systems are developing."
In the first study, published in the Journal of Nutrition in June 2004, Donovan treated intestinal cells in culture with genistein in the amount present in soy infant formula and found that the cells "basically stopped proliferating." However, actions seen in cells in culture may not be seen in infants, Donovan said.
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