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The role of soy isoflavones in menopausal health

The beneficial effects of soy protein, soy isoflavones, and their metabolites on women’s health are unclear.

So, the North American Menopause Society convened a seminar of experts in the field.

First, the details.

  • They reviewed the latest evidence on isoflavones as they affect menopausal symptoms, breast and endometrial cancer, atherosclerosis, bone loss, and cognition.

And, the results.

  • There were mixed results of the effects on midlife women.
  • Soy-based isoflavones are modestly effective in relieving menopausal symptoms.
  • Supplements that provide higher proportions of genistein or increased in S(-)-equol may provide more benefits.
    • Genistein is one of several known isoflavones found in lupin, fava beans, and soybeans.
    • Equol is a nonsteroidal estrogen.
  • Soy food is associated with lower risk of breast and endometrial cancer preliminary studies.
  • The efficacy of isoflavones on bone isn’t proven.
  • Whether soy has cardiovascular benefits is unclear.
  • Younger postmenopausal women derive benefit from isoflavone therapy more than older women, based on preliminary research.

The bottom line?

Surprise! The panel would like to see more study results.

In the meantime, they concluded, “The interrelations of other dietary components on soy isoflavones consumed as a part of diet or by supplement… require further study, as do potential interactions with prescription and over-the-counter medications.

7/15/11 20:19 JR

Hi, I’m JR

John Russo, Jr., PharmD, is president of The MedCom Resource, Inc. Previously, he was senior vice president of medical communications at, a complementary and alternative medicine website.