Review sheds light on specific phytoestrogen functions for health: Frutarom

By Nathan Gray

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Nutrition

The way phytoestrogens affect health and bodily functions may be down to key differences in molecular structures that affect different cellular mechanisms, according to a new review from Wageningen University and Frutarom.

The review – published in Food and Function​ – aims to offer a greater understanding of how different phytoestrogens have unique estrogenic profiles and roles within the body. Such phytoestrogens are commonly used used as nutraceuticals in functional foods or food supplements.

“Research has shown that the estrogenic mechanisms in the body are very complex,” ​said Dr Rudy Simons R&D manager at Frutarom, and co-author of the review.

“However, it appears that the molecular structure of phytoestrogens play a big role in the ​in vitro estrogenic activity as well as the type of clinical health benefits,”​ he added.

Specific supplementation?

This offers industry with interesting possibilities in the development of unique, tailor made phytoestrogen-rich extracts with specific estrogen-activity profiles, the reviewers suggest.

“Although their activity profiles are similar, they are not the same,”​ said Simons. “For example, phytoestrogens from soy are associated with improved bone health and menopausal health, phytoestrogens from flax can delay the onset benign prostate hyperplasia (BPH) and hair loss and licorice phytoestrogens are particularly associated with chemoprevention.”

“These differences in bioactivity possibly originate from the activation of different mechanisms.”

Review details

The review pulls together research knowledge from three decades to focus on the specific mechanisms that cause phytoestrogens to act as either agonist (estrogen) or as antagonist (anti-estrogen) towards the estrogen receptors in the human body.

Simons and his colleagues also summarise new findings on the dietary occurrence, bioavailability and metabolism of phytoestrogens.

Source: Food & Function
Published online ahead of print, doi: 10.1039/c2fo12090k
“Prenylated isoflavonoids from plants as selective estrogen receptor modulators (phytoSERMs)”
Authors: Rudy Simons, Harry Gruppen, Toine F. H. Bovee, Marian A. Verbruggen, Jean-Paul Vincken

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