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3 Feb 2013

What is Isoflavones


The consumption of soy products has many health benefits, including protection against breast cancer, prostate cancer, menopausal symptoms, heart disease and osteoporosis. Many of the health benefits of soy are derived from its isoflavones. However some critics claim that isoflavones can increase the incidence of epithelial hyperplasia and cause goitre and hyperthyroidism. Isoflavones remain the subject of many scientific studies, as illustrated by the more than 1700 scientific publications mentioning isoflavones in their title or abstract. Most of these studies show that isoflavones may have some health benefit.

The chemical structure of isoflavones is very similar to that of our own estrogen. Because of this similarity in structure, they can interfere with the action of our own estrogen. Depending on the type of estrogen receptor on the cells, isoflavones may reduce or activate the activity 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. If during menopause the body's natural level of estrogen drops, isoflavones can compensate this by binding to the same receptor, thereby easing menopause symptoms as a result. The best way to consume isoflavones is in the form soy or soyfoods, so you can benefit from other healthy components of soy. Soy contains many types of isoflavones, but the most beneficial are genistein (see picture) and daidzein. The highest amounts of soy isoflavones can be found in soy nuts and tempeh. Another natural source of isoflavones is red clover.

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