Stronger Bones for Soy-Fed Children?

Stronger Bones for Soy-Fed Children?

Consuming soy in the early years of life would have long-term benefits on bone health, according to an experimental study.
Stronger Bones for Soy-Fed Children

Consumption of soy products early in life could provide benefits for bone health. This is suggested by a new study published in The FASEB Journal which shows that consumption of soy protein in childhood could prevent severe forms of bone loss in adulthood and also help ensure good bone quality. This study is the first to use an animal model to show the protective effect of soy consumed from a very early age on bone loss later in life.

” Nutrition during intrauterine life and just after birth has an impact on the risk of chronic diseases, but evidence of an association between early diet and bone health in adulthood is Limited, “the authors of the article explain. ” Soy proteins can be part of these dietary factors that promote bone growth at the beginning of life with persistent effects in adulthood.”

” Studies show that the acquisition of optimal bone mass early in life is essential to reduce the risk of fracture later and delay the decline in bone mass to critical levels of symptoms of degenerative bone disorders.”

Studies conducted so far suggest that long-term soy consumption is beneficial for bone health. The results are more controversial as to the benefits on bone loss from soy consumption started at menopause.

The researchers used a very young female rat model. A group of rats was fed a diet based on soy protein for 30 days from the 24th day after birth until the 55th day and then the rodents were switched to a standard diet until their 6 months.The other group of rats received a standard diet throughout the experiment. Rats were ablated ovaries to simulate bone loss in women after menopause.

The results first showed a significant increase in bone mass in rats fed for 30 days with soy protein compared to the control group. Then, in the soy protein-fed group, loss of bone mineral density (after ovarian ablation) was lower than in the control group.

This study shows the persistent beneficial effects of soy consumption early in life on bone loss later, especially at a key period for bone health like menopause. It is, however, an experimental study, of which it is not certain that it applies to human physiology.

Soy and especially the isoflavones it contains may act by deactivating or regulating caveolin-1, a protein associated with cellular senescence. Indeed, the bone loss induced by ovarian ablation in the female rat is the result of the increase in oesophobic cell senescence. The effects of soy-based diet early in life are persistent and prevent bone loss later.

” Proper nutrition at the beginning of life can optimize maximum bone mass.Consumption of soy-based foods provides many health benefits, including improved bone loss in adulthood, “the authors conclude.

This study confirms previous results. Researchers have shown that in rats a high protein diet was beneficial for some markers of bone health, especially when the protein source is vegetable (soy protein). With soy protein, the calcium content of the bones is improved by 7% compared to the results obtained with animal proteins. In addition, a diet containing soy helps reduce the risk of hip fracture.

Our opinion: Can we give soya to children or babies? In the United States, 1 in 5 babies fed with artificial milk is a soy formula. In Asia, this is the case for about one in 10 babies. Before the age of 18 months, 95% of small asians consumed soy. After weaning, 90% of Asian children use it. Women who have consumed soy in childhood have a reduced risk of breast cancer in adulthood, according to studies conducted in Asia. However, soy consumption in early childhood and childhood remains controversial. Observational studies have reported that girls who consumed soybeans when they were infants tended to menstruate earlier than those who had not, but other studies reported exactly the opposite results. The only intervention study conducted to date, the American study Beginnings, follows 101 children, one part of which (35) was breast-fed, another received an artificial milk based on cow’s milk (32). At 5 years of age, no differences in the development of reproductive organs were observed between the 3 groups, as opposed to those observed in animals. The study will follow the children until puberty.


Chen JR. Dietary factors during early life program bone formation in female rats. FASEB J. 2016 Oct 12. pii: fj.201600703R. [Epub ahead of print]

Nebot E. Effects of the amount and source of dietary protein on bone status in rats. Food Funct. 2014 Apr;5(4):716-23. doi: 10.1039/c3fo60525f. Epub 2014 Feb 17

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