Drug Companies Using Food Ingredients to Supply Estrogen
~ June 1999 No.75 ~
The line between foods and drugs gets fuzzier and fuzzier as more researchers discover active ingredients in common foods that may be good for health and disease prevention. The whole movement towards functional foods is based on the idea that many of the fruits, vegetables and other staples in our diet contain vitamins, mineral, and phyto-chemicals that act as antioxidants or other powerful agents that can prevent or reduce the effects of infection and disease. However, the pharmaceutical sector also has been watching this development, and so it comes as no surprise when food ingredients are be extracted, concentrated and incorporated into new drugs. From a health regulatory point of view, this is where it gets very tricky.
The latest medicinal to be approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration is a combination of plant estrogens derived from soybean and yam plants. The growing demand by menopausal women to have other options when they consider estrogen replacement therapy is a big factor behind the development of this product.
Both soybean and yam are good sources of plant estrogens that mimic the estrogens found normally in women and men. The plant estrogens chemically resemble those found in the human body. In most cases, the concentration of plant estrogens is low; however, there is an ever increasing number of women who are adding soybean products to their diet.
Estrogen is in fact a term that refers to the three naturally occurring estrogens - estradiol, estrone, and estriol. The primary site of production in the body is the maturing folicles of the ovary. Throughout life these hormones regulate a variety of metabolic processes that vary from the development of female sex hormones, to control of lipid (fat) metabolism to major influences on calcium and phosphorus metabolism as they relate to bone formation. It is this latter function that is related to interest in estrogens and osteoperosis.
The arrival of a pill on the market that combines the active ingredients of soybean and yam may be seen as a breakthrough by some. To others it is just another reason to believe that smart eating can be good for your health.