Severe menstrual pain linked to soy formula feeding during infancy

December 2018

Scientists at NIEHS, along with collaborators from Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville and the Henry Ford Health System in Detroit, examined data from 1,553 African-American women, aged 23-35 years, who participated in the NIEHS Study of Environment, Lifestyle, and Fibroids (SELF).

Upson has been involved in SELF research since she started at NIEHS in 2013. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)
The researchers found that women who had ever been fed soy formula as babies were 50 percent more likely to have experienced moderate or severe menstrual discomfort between the ages of 18 and 22 years, and 40 percent more likely to have used hormonal contraception to help alleviate menstrual pain.

NIEHS postdoctoral researcher and lead author Kristen Upson, Ph.D., offered a potential explanation for the association between soy formula and severe menstrual pain. She said that data from previous laboratory animal studies suggested that early-life exposure to genistein, a naturally occurring component in soy formula, interferes with the development of the reproductive system, including factors involved in menstrual pain.

She said these studies have also shown that developmental changes can continue into adulthood.

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Issue 12: Volume 4

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