The Right Formula?
Soy Milk vs. Cow's Milk
Going too far?
Some experts contend that the anti-soy campaigns have gone too
far. Kenneth D.R. Setchell, PhD, a researcher and professor of pediatrics at
Children's Hospital Medical Center in Cincinnati, believes the fears about soy
milk causing developmental problems are unfounded. He points out that the
studies that sparked the New Zealand outcry were done in animals, not people.
And while soy can cause some endocrine disruptions in animals, humans
metabolize soy very differently, he says.
If soy formulas caused problems, Setchell says, physicians
would have noticed it by now. Soy milk has been given to infants for centuries
in Asian countries, according to the AAP, and in this country since 1909.
Setchell's views are supported by British pediatrician Charles
Essex, MD, who wrote in the Aug. 31, 1996, British Medical Journal that
there is virtually no data on the effects of phytoestrogens on children. He
also noted that pediatricians have not reported large numbers of male infants
developing breasts or other female traits because of soy formula. Still, he
acknowledged that the long-term effects of soy are not known.
Nutritionally speaking, soy and cow's milk formulas are
similar. Both include vitamins A, D, E, and K. The main difference is in their
protein and sugar make-up.
Cow's milk is processed into formula by heating and other
methods that make the animal proteins in the milk more digestible. Supplemental
milk sugar (lactose) is added to mimic the higher sugar content of breast milk.
Finally, the fat (butterfat) is removed and replaced with vegetable oils or
animal fats, which are also easier to digest.
Soy formulas, which contain plant proteins and glucose or
sucrose (rather than lactose), have changed greatly since they were first
introduced. In the past, they included soy flour, which led to diarrhea, excess
gas, and fussiness. Today, the formulas contain a soy protein isolate, which
reduces the frequency of gastrointestinal problems.
The quality of protein in cow's milk formulas is a bit better
than that in soy, but neither type is as good as that in breast milk, says the
AAP. And lactose-free cow's milk formulations are now available for infants
that are lactose intolerant.