In recent years, soy isoflavones have been the subject of much research. These compounds, which are found naturally in soybeans, have a variety of potential health benefits. They may improve bone health, reduce hot flashes during menopause, and protect against certain types of cancer.
Soy isoflavones and their potential health benefits
Isoflavones are characterized by their similar structure to female estrogens. Hence their interesting health benefits.
Soy isoflavones are bioactive compounds of a phenolic nature characterized by their phytoestrogenic and antioxidant properties. They are found both in the soya plant (Glycine max) and in by-products. In fact, they are distributed today as a dietary supplement because of their potential benefits.
According to a study published in the journal Nutrients, this phytochemical has shown benefits in treating hormone balance, cardiovascular health and osteoporosis prevention. Its intake is even associated with anti-diabetic and anti-tumor effects. Want to know more about it?
Soy isoflavones: uses and potential benefits
Soy isoflavones have the ability to bind to estrogen receptors in various cells and tissues. Because of this, they are categorized as a “phytoestrogen”.
Thus, their effects in the body affect hormonal, reproductive and metabolic health. Let’s see their main advantages in detail.
Symptoms of menopause
One of the most important uses of soy isoflavones has to do with menopause. In particular, they are used as a supplement to reduce symptoms such as hot flashes at night, depression, vaginal dryness and metabolic disturbances.
In fact, these benefits have been shown in several studies. A report published in the journal Nutrients reported that isoflavones were helpful in reducing hot flashes caused by menopause, as well as curbing the loss of bone density, reducing blood pressure and improving glycemic control at this stage.
Irritable bowel syndrome
Soy isoflavone supplementation is beneficial for patients with irritable bowel syndrome. This was determined by a study shared in the Middle East Journal of Digestive Diseases, which reported that their consumption reduces the symptoms of the disorder and generally improves the quality of life of affected patients.
As mentioned above, isoflavones also have a positive impact on cardiovascular health. Especially sources such as tofu, tempeh and other soy products have shown beneficial effects on the control of bad cholesterol or LDL cholesterol.
A meta-analysis shared in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition confirmed these effects. According to the researchers, soy protein with isoflavones helped to improve lipid profiles. Not only did it reduce bad (LDL) and total cholesterol levels, but it also kept good cholesterol levels stable.
Type 2 diabetes
Soy isoflavone consumption supports the prevention and treatment of type 2 diabetes. According to a report shared in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences, this phytonutrient affects the proper functioning of organs involved in diabetes, such as the pancreas, liver and adipose tissue.
A previous study shared in Food & Function showed similar results. In this study, the researchers concluded that genistein – a type of isoflavone – has antidiabetic effects and is a promising candidate as a complementary approach to prevent diabetes.
Soy isoflavones are not a first-line treatment for osteoporosis. However, it remains one of the most recommended supplements for the prevention of this disorder.
A report shared in the Journal of Medicinal Food reported that isoflavones reduce bone density loss caused by osteoporosis. Additionally, a previous study in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition associated this supplement with stimulation of bone formation in menopausal women.
Research findings on the role of isoflavones in breast cancer are controversial. While some suggest that a diet rich in soy may reduce the risk of this disease, other studies show that excessive soy intake increases the risk.
In this regard, it is advisable to assess each individual case with a doctor or nutritionist. In general, occasional and moderate consumption of soy and its derivatives usually does not pose a problem.
Possible side effects of soy isoflavones
For most healthy adults, moderate intake of soy isoflavones does not pose a problem. Side effects are usually associated with long-term consumption of commercial soy isoflavone supplements. In general, dietary sources are well tolerated.
However, some adverse reactions to their intake are as follows:
Loss of appetite
Constipation, bloating and nausea
Allergic reactions (skin rash, itching and, in severe cases, anaphylaxis)
However, a long-term intake of isoflavones in the diet during childhood is associated with an increased risk of Kawasaki disease in children. Therefore, it should be avoided at these stages.
Among other things, an excess of this phytoestrogen can lead to abnormal growth of uterine tissue, as well as an increased risk of breast cancer.
Isoflavone content in soy and its derivatives
In general, the suggested amount of isoflavones ranges from 40 mg/day to 80 mg/day (optimal amount). However, intakes up to 100 mg/day are considered safe for up to 3 months.
It is estimated that every 100 grams of soybeans and their derivatives provide the following amount of isoflavones:
Soybeans: 60-239 mg.
Soybean flour: 60-235 mg.
Soy protein: 45-200 mg.
Soya milk: 1-31 mg.
Tempeh: 43-63 mg.
Tofu: 10-50 mg.
Miso: 20-100 mg.
What should you remember about soy isoflavones?
Soy isoflavones are a type of phytoestrogen linked to hormonal, metabolic, reproductive and cardiovascular health benefits. Their moderate and occasional consumption can promote the prevention and treatment of some chronic diseases.
However, when it comes to taking them as a supplement, it is best to consult a doctor or nutritionist. Remember that in some cases it can be counterproductive.
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Vogue Health Team