November 15, 2010

Kenneth Setchell

The importance of estrogens in homeostatic regulation of many cellular and biochemical events is well illustrated by the pathophysiologic changes that occur with estrogen deficiency. Many of the major diseases of Western populations are hormone dependent and epidemiologic data have shown a strong association between their incidence and diet. In particular, the importance of a plant-based diet is evident from the current dietary recommendations that emphasize an increase in the proportion and amount of fruit and vegetables that should be consumed. Although interpretation of the role of individual components of the diet is difficult from epidemiologic and dietary studies, it is recognized that there are many plant-derived bioactive nonnutrients that can confer significant health benefits. Among these phytochemicals is the broad class of nonsteroidal estrogens called phytoestrogens, and in the past decade there has been considerable interest in the role of isoflavones because of their relatively high concentrations in soy protein. The isoflavones in modest amounts of ingested soy protein are biotransformed by intestinal microflora, are absorbed, undergo enterohepatic recycling, and reach circulating concentrations
that exceed by several orders of magnitude the amounts of endogenous estrogens. These phytoestrogens and their
metabolites have many potent hormonal and nonhormonal activities that may explain some of the biological effects of diets rich in phytoestrogens