Soy isoflavones (Genistein and Daidzein) are a class of phytoestrogens, a plant-derived compounds with estrogenic activity. The chemical structure of isoflavones is very similar to that of our own estrogen. because of the similarity in structure, they can interfere with the action of estrogen. Isoflavones can compete with estrogen for the same receptor sites thereby decreasing the health risks of excess estrogen. They can also increase the estrogen activity. Research in several areas of healthcare has shown that consumption of isoflavones may play a role in lowering risk for disease.
Ease menopause symptoms
Many studies have found that soy isoflavones can reduce menopause symptoms such as hot flushes and increase bone density in women.
A study carried out by “Health Test” in 2004 investigated the prescription behaviour of 27 doctors for women with menopause symptoms. It showed that isoflavones were recommended twice (44%) as often as hormonal treatment (22%). The prescribed supplements were mainly based on the following plants: soy, black cohosh and hops.
Reduce heart disease risk
Soy isoflavones also appear to reduce cardiovascular disease risk via several distinct mechanisms. Isoflavones inhibit the growth of cells that form artery clogging plaque. These arteries usually form blood clots which can lead to a heart attack. A review of 38 controlled studies on soy and heart disease concluded that soy is definitely effective for improving cholesterol profile. There is some evidence that isoflavones are the active ingredients in soy responsible for improving cholesterol profile.
Isoflavones improve bone health
Soy Isoflavones help in the preservation of the bone substance and fight osteoporosis. Unlike estrogen, which helps prevent the destruction of bone, evidence suggests that isoflavones may also assist in creating new bone.
Reduce cancer risk
Isoflavones seem to be protect agains tumors because they act against cancer cells in a way similar to many common cancer-treating drugs. Population-based studies show a strong association between consumption of isoflavones and a reduced risk of breast and endometrial cancer. Women who consumed the most soy products and other foods rich in isoflavones reduced their risk of endometrial cancer by 54%.
Isoflavones are natural antioxidants
A recent study has demonstrated that isoflavones have potent antioxidant properties, comparable to that of the well known antioxidant vitamin E. The antioxidant powers of isoflavones can reduce the long-term risk of cancer by preventing free radical damage to DNA. Genistein is the most potent antioxidant among the soy isoflavones, followed by daidzein.