Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Potential association between soy formula, seizures in children with autism

Date:
March 13, 2014
Source:
University of Wisconsin-Madison
Summary:
A higher rate of seizures among children with autism has been detected in those who were fed infant formula containing soy protein rather than milk protein. The study found excess seizures among girls and in the total sample of 1,949 children. The soy-seizure link reached borderline significance among boys, who comprised 87 percent of the children described in the database under study.

A University of Wisconsin-Madison researcher has detected a higher rate of seizures among children with autism who were fed infant formula containing soy protein rather than milk protein. The study found excess seizures among girls and in the total sample of 1,949 children. The soy-seizure link reached borderline significance among boys, who comprised 87 percent of the children described in the database under study.

Seizures -- caused by uncontrolled electrical currents in the brain -- occur in many neurological disorders including epilepsy, Alzheimer's disease, Down syndrome and autism.

About 25 percent of infant formula sold in the United States is based on soy protein.

Study author Cara Westmark, a senior scientist in the UW-Madison department of neurology, says her investigation was sparked by mouse studies of a drug that, it was hoped, would inhibit seizures by blocking signals that excite nerve cells. "It was pure serendipity that we happened to look at soy," she says.

To simplify the mouse study, she replaced the standard lab chow, which had a variable composition, with a diet containing purified ingredients. Unexpectedly, that diet reduced the rate of seizures by 50 percent compared to standard chow, Westmark says.

"We were intrigued that a dietary alteration was as effective as many medicines in reducing seizure incidence and wanted to pursue that finding," she says. "We found that the main difference between the diets was the protein source. The standard diet was soy-based, while the purified diet was casein, or dairy, based."

The mechanism of action is unknown, but Westmark points to the high level of plant-derived estrogens in soy products as a possible cause of the excess seizures.

People eat a lot of soy products, and when Westmark began to look for the effect in people, she decided to focus on infants, who may consume nothing but formula. Knowing that people with autism have a higher rate of seizures, Westmark turned to a database from the Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative.

And that led to the new study, published in the journal PLOS ONE, which showed that children with autism who were fed soy formula had 2.6 times as many febrile seizures as the children fed non-soy formula in the database. That means 4.2 percent of the soy group had a seizure associated with a fever, compared to 1.6 percent of the others.

To put it another way, the vast majority of both groups did not have seizures. "This is not saying that all autistic children who eat soy-based formula are going to develop seizures," says Westmark.

And yet that increase is worrying, Westmark says. "The prevalence of autism is increasing and currently affects one American child in 88. Soy is a widespread ingredient in many food products and 25 percent of infant formulas are soy based, so this is something that needs to be studied. If the child is lactose intolerant, there are alternatives that a pediatrician can recommend."

The study, Westmark says, was not the kind of randomized clinical trial that can prove causation. "We can say that we have a potential association between the use of soy-based formula and seizures in autistic children; we can't say that this is cause and effect. We were fortunate to be granted access to the SFARI database, but it was not set up to answer the questions we were asking."

Although it's possible that seizures could also be more frequent among children who consume soy formula but do not have a developmental disability, "There is no data available at this time to support that," Westmark says. Still, the study raises concerns, since seizures cause neurological damage and repeated seizures -- epilepsy -- can develop into a lifelong problem.

"This needs to be studied more thoroughly," Westmark says. "If soy formula is lowering the threshold for seizures or increasing the incidence of seizures, we need to know that."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Wisconsin-Madison. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Cara J. Westmark. Soy Infant Formula and Seizures in Children with Autism: A Retrospective Study. PLoS ONE, 2014; 9 (3): e80488 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0080488

Cite This Page:

University of Wisconsin-Madison. "Potential association between soy formula, seizures in children with autism." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 13 March 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/03/140313153937.htm>.
University of Wisconsin-Madison. (2014, March 13). Potential association between soy formula, seizures in children with autism. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 28, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/03/140313153937.htm
University of Wisconsin-Madison. "Potential association between soy formula, seizures in children with autism." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/03/140313153937.htm (accessed July 28, 2014).

Share This




More Health & Medicine News

Monday, July 28, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

$15B Deal on Vets' Health Care Reached

$15B Deal on Vets' Health Care Reached

AP (July 28, 2014) A bipartisan deal to improve veterans health care would authorize at least $15 billion in emergency spending to fix a veterans program scandalized by long patient wait times and falsified records. (July 28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Traditional African Dishes Teach Healthy Eating

Traditional African Dishes Teach Healthy Eating

AP (July 28, 2014) Classes are being offered nationwide to encourage African Americans to learn about cooking fresh foods based on traditional African cuisine. The program is trying to combat obesity, heart disease and other ailments often linked to diet. (July 28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
West Africa Gripped by Deadly Ebola Outbreak

West Africa Gripped by Deadly Ebola Outbreak

AFP (July 28, 2014) The worst-ever outbreak of the deadly Ebola epidemic grips west Africa, killing hundreds. Duration: 00:48 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Trees Could Save More Than 850 Lives Each Year

Trees Could Save More Than 850 Lives Each Year

Newsy (July 27, 2014) A national study conducted by the USDA Forest Service found that trees collectively save more than 850 lives on an annual basis. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins