Phytoestrogens and lignans: Effects on reproduction and chronic diseases.

January 1, 1997 Human Health and Nutrition Data 0 Comments

Phytoestrogens and lignans: Effects on reproduction and chronic diseases.

Year: 1997
Authors: S E Rickard, L U Thompson.
Publication Name: In: Antinutrients and phytochemicals in food. American Chemical Society, Washington, D. C.
Publication Details: 273;293.


In this book chapter, the authors review the metabolism and health effects of phytoestrogens and lignans. A description of typical phytoestrogens and lignans and their sources in addition to their biological activities is presented. These compounds are believed to exert their estrogenic and anti-estrogenic effects by binding to the estrogen receptor. Whether phytoestrogens and lignans have estrogenic and anti-estrogenic effects depends on the presence and relative concentrations of stronger steroidal estrogens. Adverse estrogenic effects of phytoestrogens on reproductive development in animals with relatively low circulating levels of estradiol have been reported. The type of estrogenic effect appears to depend upon the relative potency of the compound and the time of exposure. Human consumption of soy products or flaxseed, rich in isoflavonoids and lignans, respectively, leads to changes in menstrual cycles, alleviation of menopausal symptoms as well as anti-osteoporosis effects. Both premenopausal and postmenopausal women with breast cancer have significantly lower urinary excretion levels of phytoestrogens and lignans. There is no epidemiological evidence of abnormalities in the reproductive ability of humans consuming high levels of phytoestrogens and lignans. These compounds have been found in numerous animal and human studies to reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as cancer and cardiovascular disease. The mechanisms responsible for anti-carcinogenic effects include inhibition of estrogen metabolism, antioxidant activity, and effects on cellular metabolism. Inhibition of platelet activation and hypolipidemic effects of phytoestrogens and lignans have been hypothesized as contributing to the ability of these dietary products to reduce coronary heart disease risk. The authors conclude that moderate consumption of soy and flaxseed products in adults may have long term benefits for the reduction of risk factors associated with several diseases.

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