Media Brief: Soyfoods and Children

Children can chose soymilk at school. A change in USDA rules permits schools participating in the National School Lunch and Breakfast Programs to offer soymilk as a substitute to cow’s milk and receive meal reimbursement. Parents or legal guardians must notify the school in writing that their child needs soymilk, as a non-dairy fluid milk substitute. Read more

Soyfoods are now part of the WIC Food Packages. Participants in the USDA Supplemental Food Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC Program) can now receive canned or dried soybeans, fortified soymilk, or calcium-set tofu as part of the food packages. Children under age four need a note from a medical professional documenting the need for soymilk and tofu due to a cultural, religious, or medical preference. Read more

Soyfoods support normal growth and development. Many soyfoods are good sources of priority nutrients for growing children including iron, B vitamins, essential fatty acids, magnesium, potassium, and fiber. Soymilk is fortified with calcium, vitamins D and A. Children around the world who begin eating with soy-based formulas as infants and soyfoods as young children have been found to have normal growth and development of the endocrine and reproductive systems. (1, 2, 3) In a study of Asian American women, soy intake during childhood, adolescence, and adulthood was associated with significantly decreased cancer risk, and the effect was strongest for childhood intake. (4) Read more

Soyfoods have a long track record of safety. Soyfoods have been consumed for centuries by millions of children in Asia, and have supported sound growth and development. Both the USDA Dietary Guidelines for Americans and the Food Guide Pyramid for Young Children list soyfoods as healthy options for children. For parents concerned about allergies, the prevalence of soy allergies in the pediatric population is extremely low (estimated to be less than 1%), and the reactions are quite mild. Rarely do soy allergies persist into adulthood, and are generally outgrown by 5 years of age. Very rarely do severe anaphylactic reactions occur as a result of soyfood consumption. (5, 6) Read more

Soyfoods can help manage weight and assist in weight loss. The prevalence of overweight among children and adolescents in the U.S. has doubled in the past two decades and the rate of children with diabetes has also grown. To manage their children’s weight, parents seeking healthy sources of high quality protein should look toward soyfoods that are low in saturated fat and cholesterol free. Soy protein increases satiety—thought to be a key component of weight control.(7) Researchers confirm that soy protein is as good as meat and dairy proteins in achieving weight loss.(8) Soyfoods also help children decrease their intake of total fat, saturated fat, dietary cholesterol as well as calories when substituted for other protein sources in meals. Read more

Children and adolescents enjoy tasty soyfoods. Many studies confirm that soyfoods easily fit into children’s diets. Researchers at the University of Southern Illinois at Carbondale found that 3-6 year old children fed soy-enhanced lunches ate roughly the same amount of food as children fed non-soy lunches. Children consumed the same number of calories, but significantly more high-quality protein and iron, and less fat and saturated fat, in the soy-enhanced lunches than in the non-soy lunches. They concluded that soy-enhanced foods can add variety to children’s diets without sacrificing nutrient value or taste. (9) A plate-waste test in Montgomery County Schools found that kids ate just as much soyfoods as they did traditional menu items—indicating a high acceptability of soyfoods. A study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition confirms that soy products are consumed by 90% of healthy Asian children, with 95% of these children consuming soyfood before 18 months of age.(10) Fortified soymilk has been shown in a study in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association to provide readily bio-available calcium and to be readily acceptable by children in school.(11) A 1994 study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that there is only a 32-percent calcium absorption rate from cow’s milk, whereas fortified soymilk, tofu, and tempeh calcium absorption rate has been shown to be “excellent.”(12) Read more

Spokespersons: Please direct media calls to researchers in this field of study.

  • Dr. Thomas Badger, Arkansas Children’s Hospital Research Institute (501)364-2785
  • Dr. Jeannette Endres, MPH, RD, University of Southern Illinois at Carbondale (618)453-5193
  • Dr. Kenneth Setchell, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center (513)636-4548
  • Soyfoods Association of North America (202)659-3520 or [email protected]


  1. Badger TM, Ronis MJJ, et al. The Health Consequences of Early Soy Consumption. J Nutr. 2002; 132:559S-565S.
  2. Giampietro PG, Bruno G, et al. Soy Protein Formulas in Children: No Hormonal Effects in Long-term Feeding. J Ped Endo & Metab. 2004; 17(2):191-196.
  3. Strom BL, Schinnar R, et al. Exposure to Soy-Based Formula in Infancy and Endocrinological and Reproductive Outcomes in Young Adulthood. J Am Med Assoc. 2001; 286(7):807-814.
  4. Korde LA, Wu AH, Fears T, Nomura AMY, West DW, Kolonel LN, Pike MC, Hoover RN, Ziegler RG. Childhood soy intake and breast cancer risk in Asian American women. Cancer Epidemiol Biomakers Prev 2009; 18(4):OF1-10.
  5. Nowak-Wegrzyn A, Conover-Walker MK, Wood RA. Food-allergic reactions in schools and preschools. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2001; 155:790-5.
  6. Sicherer SH, Sampson HA. Peanut and soy allergy: a clinical and therapeutic dilemma. Allergy. 2000; 55:515-21.
  7. Weigle DS, Breen PA, et al. A high-protein diet induces sustained reductions in appetite, ad libitum caloric intake, and body weight despite compensatory changes in diurnal plasma leptin and ghrelin concentrations. [abstract only] Am J Clin Nutr. 2005; 82(1):41-48.
  8. Cope M, Erdman J, Allison D. “The potential role of soyfoods in weight and adiposity reduction: an evidence-based review.” Obesity Reviews 2007.
  9. Endres J, Barter S, Theodora P, Welch P. Soy-enhanced lunch acceptance by preschoolers. J Am Diet Assoc. 2003; 103 (3):346-351.
  10. Quak SH, Tan SP. Use of soy-protein formulas and soyfood for feeding infants and children in Asia. Am J Clin Nutr. 1998; 68:1444S-1446S
  11. Reilly JK, Lanou AJ, Barnard ND, Seidl K, Green AA, Acceptability of soymilk as a calcium-rich beverage in elementary school children, J. Am. Diet. Assoc. 2006; 106:590-593.
  12. Weaver CM, Plawecki KL. Dietary calcium: adequacy of a vegetarian diet. Am J Clin Nutr 1994; 59 (suppl):1238S-41S.