Effects of Soy in Laboratory Rodent Diets on the Basal, Affective, and Cognitive Behavior of C57BL/6 Mice.
Soy is one of the most common sources of protein in many commercial formulas for laboratory rodent diets. Soy contains isoflavones, which are estrogenic. Therefore, soy-containing animal diets might influence estrogen-regulated systems, including basal behavioral domains, as well as affective behavior and cognition. Furthermore, the isoflavone content of soy varies, potentially unpredictably confounding behavioral results. Therefore researchers are increasingly considering completely avoiding dietary soy to circumvent this problem. Several animal studies have investigated the effects of soy free diets but produced inconsistent results. In addition, most of these previous studies were performed in outbred rat or mouse strains. In the current study, we assessed whether a soy-free diet altered locomotion, exploration, nesting, anxiety-related behaviors, learning, and memory in C57BL/6 mice, the most common inbred strain used in biomedical research. The parameters evaluated address measures of basic health, natural behavior, and affective state that also are landmarks for animal welfare. We found minor differences between feeding groups but no indications of altered welfare. We therefore suggest that a soy-free diet can be used as a standard diet to prevent undesirable side effects of isoflavones and to further optimize diet standardization, quality assurance, and ultimately increase the reproducibility of experiments.