Articles

A natural alternative to menopausal hormone replacement therapy. Phytoestrogens.

Author

Arena S

Date

2/2002

Journal

Minerva Ginecol

Abstract

Phytoestrogens are non-steroidal plant molecules whose structure differs from gonadal hormones, but with an estrogen-type bioactivity: they are capable of interacting with estrogen receptors, showing both agonist and antagonist methods of action. The beneficial effects of various classes of phytoestrogens present in nature are now known, but the main isoflavone present in soya, genistein, appears to be particularly effective. Interest in this substance is concentrated in particular on its therapeutic role in menopause. This paper is a review of the main studies published to date on the efficacy of phytoestrogens in reducing the symptoms of menopause. A diet rich in isoflavones is associated with a reduced incidence of vasomotor episodes; the average supplement of genistein is approximately 50 mg/day. After supplementing the diet with phytoestrogens, studies show a reduction in total cholesterol and LDL fraction. This is accompanied by an increase in BMD (Bone mineral density) after taking 90 mg of isoflavones for 6 months. Isoflavones may reduce the risk of developing breast cancer. The data examined confirm the excellent clinical efficacy of supplementing the diet with soy extracts, particularly genistein which is indicated to alleviate both the short-term symptoms of menopause and the long-term effects, although the latter finding requires further subsantiation.