Sep 09, 2010
U.S. girls are reaching puberty earlier.
That may not seem like a big deal, but as the years go by, this trend will have very serious health repercussions. Some of the most likely outcomes of early puberty include depression, eating disorders, suicide, breast cancer, and cancer of the membrane that lines the uterus.
The researchers who revealed the trend don't speculate in Pediatrics, where the study appeared last month. But a USA Today article delivers plenty of speculation.
One researcher points to the so-called "obesity epidemic." Apparently, heavier girls tend to develop earlier.
Other pediatric experts note that certain environmental chemicals can disrupt hormones. Bisphenol A (BPA), for instance, is a very likely culprit. BPA has estrogenic qualities, and young kids get plenty of exposure from plastic bottles and the lining of beverage cans.
Pesticides and flame-retardant chemicals might add to the problem.
What's odd about all this speculation is the glaring omission of, arguably, the most likely suspect. It's America's favorite "health food.
A steady diet of estrogen I'm talking about soy. Unfermented soy is loaded with isoflavones, which are phytoestrogens.
According to Sally Fallon Morell and Mary G. Enig, Ph.D., of the Weston A. Price Foundation, soy-based formula is given to about one-in-four bottle-fed children in the U.S. (That was their estimate in 2002. I expect the actual number is much higher now.)
Morell and Enig cite research that reveals a sad list of health problems linked to soy intake by babies of both sexes: extreme emotional behavior, asthma, immune system problems, thyroid disorders, and irritable bowel syndrome.
And then they share two very grim statistics: A study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that when infants are fed soy-based formula, their daily isoflavone exposure may be more than 10 times higher (on a body-weight basis) than the dose that produces hormonal effects in adults who consume non-fermented soy products.
A New Zealand study shows that a child who is fed soy formula exclusively is exposed to the estrogenic equivalent (again, based on body weight) of five birth control pills per day.
Then after this bombardment of daily hormones for a year or more, these kids start in on a typical American diet that's LOADED with soy.
Just take a look at some of the nutrition panels on the foods in your cupboard. Unless you've made a very specific effort to avoid soy, I guarantee you'll find soybean oil, soy lecithin, soy flour, and soy protein isolate hidden in all kinds of processed foods--bread, candy, cereal, cookies, crackers, sausage, canned foods, tea, etc.
We've been raising a generation of soy kids pumped with estrogen. Hopefully, we can convince formula-makers to see the light, remove the soy, and give future generations a better start in life without this phony "health food."