Dietary isoflavones: biological effects and relevance to human health

Author: Setchell KD, Cassidy A.
Publication: J Nutr. 1999 Mar;129(3):758S-767S.

This article is a literature review about the biological effects of isoflavones and their effect on human health. Evidence indicates that diets high in plant-based foods may explain the epidemiologic variance of many hormone-dependent diseases.

Isoflavones and estrogen have very similar structures and it is not surprising that isoflavones can bind to human estrogen receptors.

There are a lot of plants which contains phyto-chemicals which may protect human health. Lignans and isoflavones are the most studied phytochemicals. These substance occur in many plants. Isoflavones are mainly found in soybeans. Therefore most soy foods will provide an important dietary source of bioactive nonnutrients. Lignans and isoflavones have wide range of hormonal and non-hormonal activities which might explain the health benefits associated with diets rich in phytoestrogens. Results from animal and in vitro studies provide convincing evidence for the potential of phytoestrogens in influencing hormone-dependent states.

Studies in premenopausal women provide evidence that diets rich in phytoestrogens can produce estrogenic effects. In animal studies, isoflavones reduced the tumor formation significantly. Other in vitro studies have shown that the isoflavones daidzein and genistein can inhibit cell growth.

Diets rich in phytoestrogens may be of benefit for the prevention of typical Western diseases.