April 2014

Soy-Based Formula Linked to Seizures in Infants with Autism

A recent study links the use of soy-based formula in infants with autism to an increased risk for seizures.

Autism is a brain disorder that is associated with a wide range of developmental problems, especially in communication and social interaction. In some patients, autism has been linked to other medical conditions. Autistic patients are more likely to have Fragile X syndrome (which causes mental retardation), tuberous sclerosis (which causes tumors to grow in the brain), epilepsy (which causes seizures), and Tourette's syndrome (which causes involuntary body movements). Although autism appears to be related to abnormalities in the brain, the exact cause of the disorder remains unknown. Several theories have been suggested as possible causes. Most researchers believe that several factors are involved in the development of autism.

In a recent study, researchers collected data from medical records on 1,949 autistic children. Data on infant formula use, seizures and types of seizures as well as IQ were evaluated.

The researchers found that 17.5 percent of the infants in the study were fed soy-based formula. There was 2.6 times the rate of seizures triggered by a fever, 2.1 times the rate of epilepsy, and 4 times the rate of simple partial seizures in autistic children who were fed soy-based formula. There were no significant links between the other evaluated factors and soy-based formula.

The author concluded that soy-based formula may be linked to an increased risk of seizures in autistic children. However, due to limitations of the study, including lack of details on the reason for using soy-based formula, the length of time soy-based formula was used, and the age at which soy-based formula use started, additional research is warranted to further evaluate these findings.

For more information about soy, please visit Natural Standard's Foods, Herbs & Supplements Database.


  1. Natural Standard: The Authority on Integrative Medicine. 
  2. Westmark CJ. Soy infant formula and seizures in children with autism: a retrospective study. PLoS One. 2014 Mar 12;9(3):e80488.

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