Soy isoflavones have been a component of the diet of certain populations for centuries. Soy isoflavones have estrogenic, antioxidant activity. They may also have anticarcinogenic, anti-atherogenic, hypolipidemic and anti-osteoporotic activities. Soy isoflavones are powerful plant substances chemically similar to the female hormone estrogen. Soy isoflavones can be used alone to treat or
Prevent breast cancer, prostate cancer, skin cancer, and colon cancer or as mechanism inhibitors. Isoflavones alone may also reduce or prevent various symptoms related to the onset and duration of menopause, including hot flashes and osteoporosis. Isoflavones alone may also be effective in certain cardiovascular applications, including heart disease, reducing cholesterol-lipid levels, modulating angiogenesis, and other vascular effects. Moreover, isoflavones alone have been implicated in reducing headaches, dementia, inflammation, and alcohol abuse, as well as immunomodulation.
Isoflavones acts as antioxidants to counteract damaging effects of free radicals in tissues. Isoflavones may reduce the risk of hormone-dependent cancers, such as breast and prostate cancer, as well as other cancers. By blocking enzymes thought to contribute to prostate cancer, soy isoflavones may delay or prevent its development. Isoflavones also have been found to have antiangiogenic effects (blocking formation of new blood vessels), and may block the uncontrolled cell growth associated with cancer, most likely by inhibiting the activity of substances in the body that regulate cell division and cell survival (growth factors). The soy isoflavone genistein has been reported to inhibit angiogenesis, the growth of new blood vessels that, when abnormal, can contribute to the development of cancer. Soy isoflavones have also been shown to inhibit 5 alpha-reductase, the enzyme that activates testosterone in the prostate gland and other tissues. Epidemiological studies have shown that populations with high intakes of soya foods, such as those of China, Japan and other Asian countries, usually have a reduced risk of cancers of the breast, prostate, colon and uterus.
Isoflavones can act like estrogen in stimulating development and maintenance of female characteristics or they can block cells from using other forms of estrogen. The mild estrogenic activity of soy isoflavones may ease menopause symptoms for some women, without creating estrogen-related problems. Soy may also be beneficial in preventing osteoporosis. Women approaching menopause who eat isoflavone-rich soy protein are significantly more likely to boost their bone mineral density than women whose diets are low in soy isoflavones. Soy isoflavones may help alleviate hot flashes and night sweats that many women experience during menopause.
The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends adding at least 25 grams of soy protein per day to a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol to reduce the risk of heart disease. Soy isoflavones prevent LDL cholesterol from harming the walls of blood vessels by decreasing the formation of plaque in the vessel wall.