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Role of isoflavones in menopausal health conditions

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Role of Isoflavones in Menopausal Health Conditions

The North American Menopause Society (NAMS) has released a formal consensus opinion on the role of isoflavones for acute or chronic health conditions associated with menopause and aging.

Isoflavones are a major type of plant-derived estrogen. The main sources of isoflavones are whole soy foods, isoflavone supplements and isoflavone-fortified foods. According to NAMS, these products are being used by women in an effort to improve well-being and prevent disease.

According to the panel of experts who developed the NAMS consensus opinion, many studies have been performed to evaluate the effects of isoflavones on short-term menopausal symptoms and on various diseases in women. The review showed that scientific data are inconclusive about whether the observed health effects are attributable to isoflavones alone or to isoflavones plus other components in whole foods. The panel concludes that more studies documenting benefits and safety should be conducted.

The NAMS consensus opinion recommended that women consume whole foods containing isoflavones, especially for potential cardiovascular benefits. Data supporting the use of isoflavones for hot flushes are conflicting, and inadequate data exist to evaluate their effect on female cancers, bone mass and vaginal dryness.

Isoflavones have a significant effect on lipid levels. Studies have found that isoflavones significantly reduce low-density lipoprotein levels and triglyceride levels, as well as increase high-density lipoprotein levels. In 1999, these data led the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to approve the health claim that 25 g per day of soy protein, as part of a...