Phytoestrogens: The facts
Posted 27 April 2015 12:00 AM by Dr Sarah Brewer
Soy – the natural safeguard
Phytoestrogens or isoflavones are plant hormones that have similar properties to human oestrogens. Like human oestrogens they bind to hormone receptors, acting as regulators in the body. In 2001 the effect of eating soy was assessed by Japanese researchers in a study of over 1,000 Japanese women who showed that regular consumption of soy products had a protective effect against menopausal symptoms, osteoporosis, cardiovascular health and breast cancer. This and many studies since have sparked a lot of interest in the power of phytoestrogens.
Soy is the greatest food source of isoflavones. However, in the West few of us consume the same levels of soy naturally found in an Asian diet. Soy milk, soybeans, tofu, soy nuts and soy nut butter are all good sources so if you’re going through ‘the change’ try adding these to your diet. However, relying on dietary intake is not easy as you need to consume them with most meals to see a benefit. Supplements offer a more equivalent way to meet the levels of a typical Japanese diet that’s rich in phytoestrogens.
Red clover – for skin replenishment
Another good source of isoflavones is red clover and, although not naturally found in the human diet, are included in some supplements. The skin is a particularly oestrogen-dependant organ and responds by boosting the production of collagen to maintain firmness and hydration. After the menopause, skin undergoes changes including thinning, lower elasticity and increased sagging and wrinkling as oestrogen levels fall. Using phytoestrogens directly on the skin helps to combat skin ageing. Red clover isoflavones are believed to help work against ageing and wrinkles resulting from the changes in hormone levels at menopause.