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What are isoflavones?

Exploring the Benefits of Isoflavones

Isoflavones are a class of flavonoid found predominantly in members of the Fabaceae (Leguminosae) bean family. However, they can also be found in other plant families such as the Rutaceae, Cannabaceae, and Solanaceae. When consumed, isoflavones are believed to act as phytoestrogens by binding to estrogen receptors, potentially influencing the production of sex hormones and enzymes.

Colourful and Common Isoflavones

While isoflavones are not as widespread as other flavonoids, common varieties such as daidzein, genistein, and biochanin A come in various colors. They can be found in soybeans, red clover, white clover (seeds), and hemp seeds.

Supporting Research on Isoflavones

A study conducted in 2001 by the Institute of Food Chemistry and Technology in Vienna examined isoflavone extracts and found that they had high radical scavenging capacity, which helps reduce the production of free radicals. Another study in 2005 conducted by Chinese researchers highlighted the anti-oxidation effects of soybean isoflavones in rats, showing a decrease in oxygen free radicals.

Research at the Institute of Chemical Technology in Prague explored isoflavones’ presence in plant families other than Fabaceae and examined their potential beneficial impact on breast and prostate cancer, menopause, osteoporosis, and cardiovascular disease.

Safety Concerns and Side Effects

Isoflavones are generally well-tolerated by humans, with no adverse effects reported by the European Food Safety Authority. However, preclinical studies suggest a potential risk associated with excessive soy isoflavone intake among women with a history of breast cancer, due to conflicting evidence regarding their influence on estrogen receptors. It is important to note that there is a significant lack of data regarding the long-term effects of isoflavones, emphasizing the need for further research in this area.

Sources

[1] Huang, Q., Yang, X., & Li, W. (2005). Study on anti-senescence and anti-oxidation effects of soybean isoflavones in rats. CNKI. [Source]

[2] Koblovská, R. (2008). Isoflavones in the Rutaceae family. INSTITUTE OF CHEMICAL TECHNOLOGY. [Source]

[3] Higdon, J. (2004). Soy Isoflavones. Oregon State University. [Source]