Soy Isoflavones – Benefits and Risks from Nature’s Selective Estrogen Receptor Modulators (SERMs)
Kenneth D. R. Setchell, PhD
Department of Pediatrics, Children’s Hospital Medical Center, Cincinnati, Ohio [SETCK0@CHMCC.ORG]
Phytoestrogens have become one of the more topical areas of interest in clinical nutrition. These non-nutrient bioactive compounds are ubiquitous to the plant kingdom and possess a wide range of biological properties that contribute to the many different health-related benefits reported for soy foods and flaxseeds – two of the most abundant dietary sources of phytoestrogens. Reviewed is the recent knowledge related to their pharmacokinetics and clinical effects, focusing mainly on isoflavones that are found in high concentrations in soy foods. Arguments are made for considering soy isoflavones as natural selective estrogen receptor modulators (SERMs) based upon recent data of their conformational binding to estrogen receptors. Rebuttal is made to several key and important issues related to the recent concerns about the safety of soy and its constituent isoflavones. This article is not intended to be a comprehensive review of the literature but merely highlight recent research with key historical perspectives.