Isoflavones are plant-derived compounds enriched with estrogenic activity. Estrogens are hormones that are produced by human body. Isoflavones are majorly found in legume family particularly in soybeans, peas, beans and peanuts. In human diet, soybeans and soy products contain the significant quantity of isoflavones. Isoflavones are present in the form of glycosides in soybeans. (Higdon, 2004). Other dietary sources of isoflavones include food from animal origins such as dairy products, meat, eggs, and seafood. (Kuhnle, 2008). Bread is also a source of isoflavones-enriched soy in many developed countries such as the UK. (Mulligan; Welch, 2006).
Humans have been consuming soy isoflavones as a part of their diet for many years without any indication of adverse effects. As a source of food, traditional Asian foods made out of soybeans include miso, natto, tofu, and tempeh. In western countries, soy products include soy- based meat substitutes, soy milk, soy cheese, and soy yogurt as sources of food. Apart from that, foods that are rich in soy isoflavones include meatless soy burger, soy cheese, and cheddar and soy sausage. (Higdon, 2004). Consumption of dietary isoflavone in eastern countries particularly Asian countries is significantly higher than the western countries. (Higdon, 2004). The isoflavone intake in British general population is slightly higher as compared to other European countries. (Higdon, 2004).
As an element of disease prevention, it has been suggested that isoflavones help protect against hormone-related cancers. In Asian countries, the intake of soy foods enriched with isoflavones has contributed to reducing the risk of breast cancer. While, in contrast, due to insufficient consumption of isoflavones, the occurrence of breast cancer remains higher in Europe, North America, and Australia. (Higdon, 2004). Besides that, isoflavones also appear to reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases. They impede the growth of cells that form artery-clogging plaque which usually can lead to a heart attack. (Isoflavones, 2017). Additionally, isoflavones are helpful in reducing the risk of prostate cancer in the male prostate gland. (Isoflavones, 2017). Prostate cancer is the most common type of cancer in men. Along with reducing long-term cancer, studies have found that soy isoflavones can be helpful in reducing menopause symptoms such as hot flushes and night sweats and they also increase bone density in the human body.
Higdon. J. (2004). Soy Isoflavones. Oregon State University. Retrieved from http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/dietary-factors/phytochemicals/soy-isoflavones. Accessed on 05 march 2017.
Kuhnle. G.C. (2008). Phytoestrogen Content of Foods of Animal Origin: Dairy Products, Eggs, Meat, Fish, and Seafood. Retrieved from http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/jf801344x. Accessed on 05 march 2017.
Mulligan. A.A; Welch. A.A. (2006). Intakes and sources of Soya Foods and Isoflavones in UK population. Retrieved from http://www.nature.com/ejcn/journal/v61/n2/full/1602509a.html. Accessed on 05 march 2017.
Isoflavones. (2017). Isoflavones: health benefits of isoflavones. Retrieved from http://www.isoflavones.info/. Accessed on 05 march 2017.