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What are isoflavones?
Isoflavones are found mainly in legumes, such as red clover, lentils, split peas,
chick peas, broad beans and soy.
More than 1,000 isoflavones have been identified in plants. Of these, four specific
isoflavones have been shown to possess significant individual and specific biological
activity. These are: genistein, daidzein, formonentin and biochanin A.
However, not all legumes contain all four important isoflavones. For example, red
clover contains all four isoflavones whereas soy contains only the two isoflavones
daidzein and genistein. The isoflavone content of food also varies, for example
red clover also contains 10 to 20 times the quantity of isoflavones found in soy.
Why are isoflavones so important?
Isoflavones are phytoestrogens, which literally means, “plant estrogens”.
Isoflavones are similar in chemical structure to the body’s own estrogen,
and when consumed in adequate amounts they are able to safely mimic some of the
effects of estrogen to assist with maintaining health and well being.
Isoflavones supplement the needs of women over 45 when levels of hormones are declining.
Scientific researchers have observed that women whose diet contains a high level
of isoflavones experience a much lower incidence of menopause symptoms.
Studies now indicate a role for diet in reducing menopausal symptoms, particularly
an Asian diet abundant in isoflavones
|Adapted from Reinli K, Block G. "Phytoestrogens Content
of Foods - A Compendium of Literature Values", Nutr. Cancer 26 (2): 123-148,
(1996). Data on file.
H et al 'dietary phytoestrogens and the menopause in Japan'. Lancet 1992;
Knight DC and Eden JA. 'A review of the clinical effects of phytoestrogens'.
Obstet Gynecol 1996; 87 (5 Pt 2; 897 - 904).