San Diego Dr. David Goodman cannot understand the media's lack of concern. The Escondido-based research scientist claims to have important in-formation about soy-based baby formulas, and no one, he says, is listening. Goodman revealed his findings in an article accepted for publication by Insight, the conservative magazine published weekly by the Washington Times. Goodman is frustrated that Insight has bumped the story since October 2000. It is now slated to run June 25.
According to Goodman, high levels of manganese in soy-based formulas cause disruptive behavior in young people. Four California Universities and a private foundation have spent considerable money investigating the problem. "The Violence Research Foundation had a group do the background research on the link between violence today and the use of soy-based infant formula back in 1982, 1983. It was substantially greater than it is now, though it's still at dangerous levels."
The 1982 levels were estimated to be 400 times the biological need of newborn infants. "The newborn has absolutely no capacity to metabolize manganese, because the mother only provides four parts-per-million manganese through breast milk. When an excess is taken, it's sequestered in the organs of the body, and one of those organs is the basal ganglea, in the vicinity of the dopamine neurons. And the dopamine neurons are responsible for many behavior changes during adolescence."
Dopamine, a neuromodulator, is a brain chemical related to sexual activity that quadruples during early adolescence. "Nobody has an exact handle on what it does. I like to think of it as 'the honeymoon modulator.' It links rewards in the personal and interpersonal realm, but that's just speculation."
The deposit of manganese in the brain can have undesirable effects on neurofunction. "Manganese has been identified as a source of Parkinson's disease. Excesses can cause 'manganism' in those who mine for manganese. Those miners, in a surprisingly short time, are damaged in these basal ganglea nuclei, and within 20 years, the symptoms of Parkinson's disease emerge. There's also a big study in Britain where babies unable to metabolize manganese suffered liver damage. It's dangerous when you get too much manganese and you can't metabolize it. After about two years old the child acquires the full ability to metabolize manganese as an adult. Adults who drink soy milk have no trouble with manganese and can eliminate it."
The large levels of manganese in soy milk were not due to deliberate product enrichment. "The soy bean is a plant, and it sequesters metals from the soil, and one of them is manganese. I've heard that to remove the excess manganese would add a cost of about two cents per serving to the product. I've never really noticed that corporations were primarily benefactors of mankind! Besides, the technology was not well-developed at the time."
Goodman insists that this information isn't new -- just ignored. "The identification of the excess manganese was done by many, many scientists in the United States and overseas. Dr. Louis Gottschalk, M.D., Ph.D. -- a very big gun at U.C. Irvine, a very significant man in government research and psychiatry -- was approached by oil millionaire Everett "Red" Hodges of San Clemente. Hodges was running the Violence Research Foundation, also in San Clemente, and was interested in violence in teenagers, and they stumbled onto this manganese problem. That was about 1990.
"Although Gottschalk did not believe that something so simple as that could contribute to out-of-control behavior, he agreed to study four youth detention facilities run by the State of California. What he discovered and published -- and what was not particularly accepted by his colleagues -- was an excess of manganese in scalp hair among those charged with crimes of -- I won't say 'violence,' but crimes against individuals."
Gottschalk's findings prompted Fred Crinella, clinical professor of pediatrics at U.C. Irvine, to replicate them. "Crinella believed that the basal ganglea was the primary source of executive function in human adults and that if children with attention deficit disorder or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder have been exposed to manganese earlier, they will be brain-damaged. There's an aberration in the development of the enzymal system, so the child doesn't go through normal adolescence. They're less able to inhibit violent impulses or antisocial behavior. The result is that Crinella contacted two U.C. Davis people, Dr. Keene and Dr. Bolnerdal, and they decided to do some studies with rat pups. With U.C. Davis graduate student Trinh Tran, they gave rat pups doses of manganese comparable to that found in rat breast milk, which is similar to human breast milk. They looked at the behavior of rat pups given doses of .05 milligrams manganese per liter, the same as breast milk, versus .25 and .50 per liter and compared them. In the groups given the two larger amounts of manganese, the dopamine in the basal ganglea diminished by 55 percent when tested in adolescence. They also suffered some other disorders in inhibiting prepotent behaviors."
Crinella's research confirmed Gottschalk's, with Crinella finding that there is a link between what happens at birth and what happens with adolescence. "That's not all that unusual, as we all know about the myth of or the truth of the 'crack babies.' We know that with the babies of alcoholics and even the babies of mothers who smoke potent marijuana, there are some changes in adolescence that are titratable from brain damage both before and after birth. What's interesting is that the values of soy-based formula are about .16 milligrams now, while it was .40 in 1980. It could be that if the mother is deficient in calcium and iron during pregnancy, the amount of manganese taken into the brain is vastly increased, because iron competes with manganese. Because of the findings at the conference on toxic metal effects at U.C. Irvine last September, I ended up writing the article."
While the media continues to ignore these alarming findings, the University of California and Hodges are doing all they can to find out more. "Mr. Hodges is putting up between $50,00 and $100,000 more, and [the four U.C. campuses] are scrimping from their grants to pursue this with higher mammals than rats. In fact, they're working with primates and they're depriving the mother [primates] of an amount of calcium, which, when low, as they are in ghetto mothers, increase the uptake of manganese. They've also found out that premature babies absorb twice the manganese that full-term babies do."
Goodman's disgust is apparent in the ironic tones he uses to describe the situation. "I spoke with Naomi Baumschlag, a pediatrician on the faculty at Georgetown, and she's found that there's about 15 things that baby milk should have that soy-based formula doesn't have and about 15 things soy-based formula has that it shouldn't have. It's not the appropriate snack for a newborn baby. Of course, the government guidelines took teen levels of manganese that were able to be metabolized and back-extrapolated to the newborns! Which is great if you're playing dominoes or dice, where you can make linear back-extrapolations, but you can't do that with biological systems! So, of course, I interviewed the formula manufacturers and their scientists, and they said the predictable things: 'It'd be terrible if we didn't put manganese in,' and 'There's more reactions that are catalyzed by the manganese,' and all that kind of stuff. But the bottom line is, why the hell don't they reduce the manganese to the levels that it is in mother's milk? It may cost them a couple of cents to take it out, but then they could take out a few other things that are in soy-based formula. They should ask if they're feeding soybeans to human babies.
"We've been around a long time, and we've adapted to our mother's breast milk. Soy-based infant formula is a radical departure from the biological norm. The use of it has doubled in the last ten years, and the reason why it's so popular is because, allegedly, many babies are allergic to cow's milk. Soybeans are the great giant growth crop in the United States right now. Sales increased 23 percent last year. The female hormone that adult women take to allay the symptoms of menopause is available in soy milk, and it definitely has a biological action. Studies by our own government show that it may feminize males. That's the kind of stuff they don't want to put in print."
Insight is evidently willing to risk publishing Goodman's findings and more. "My editor wants to push for congressional hearings. He is a former secretary to the Committee on Foreign Relations, so he understands the machinery there.
"I've been talking with a fellow at the website Soybean.com, and he's going to post within a week a warning label that he's designed on soybeans for infants. The problem is, in the next two to three months the government is going to come out with new dietary standards for infants, and they're going to be essentially the same as they've been for 17 years: The baby has to get at least 5 micrograms of manganese, which is what the mother's milk provides, and there's no standards for increases. In plain English, you can put in as much as you want without breaking the government's rules. The six-month amount is 600 micrograms or 120 times what's required from the mother -- that's back-extrapolated. The FDA claims that there's not enough data on the manganese needs for the newborn, which is nonsense. It was probably lobbyists from the soybean industry that put those words in their mouths. There's been a lot of meetings and a lot of research, and it all points in the same direction. Perhaps there will be some kind of liability down the line. They've had 18 years to reduce it."
(Goodman's article is also available at Insight's website at www.insightmag.com/ archive/200106252.shtml.)