Soy Products May be Useful in Menopause

~ June 1998 No.46 ~

In Japan, there is no word for menopause and it is widely believed that in that country women do not suffer from the effects of this change of life. Explanations for this have centred mainly on diet, and the differences between the Japanese - and more generally the Asian diet - and a typical western diet. The most obvious difference is the high consumption of soybean and soybean products.

Soybean contains a family of chemical compounds called phytoestrogens. Phytoestrogens have chemical structures similar to the estrogens produced in the body and it is believed that eating foods rich in phytoestrogens can help alleviate low estrogen production in the body. Adding sources of phytoestrogens such as soybean and soybean products to the diet may, therefore, be a more natural way to treat the symptoms of menopause.

A recent report by a team of researchers at the Bowman Gray School of Medicine in Winston-Salem NC indicated that soy phytoestrogens indeed behave like the estrogen normally given to women as part of hormone replacement therapy. In monkeys the soy phytoestrogens showed similar effects on atherosclerosis and fat metabolism as did estrogen. Although not a study of menopause, it adds further evidence of the similarity of estrogen and phytoestrogens.

The attractiveness of phytoestrogens is that they are natural and can be added to the diet in a variety of ways. Of course in most foods they are found in low concentrations and so their effects may only be evident after long periods of consumption.

Chemical Structure of Major Natural Estrogen - ß-estradiol

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Editor’s Note:
This is a particularly interesting topic for our female readers and we have had several requests for articles related to diet and menopause. We are researching other articles that will appear in future issues of Medicinal Food News

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  • I have just started to take Phyto-estrin to help with night sweats and hot flashes, but when I told my doctor about this she suggested I did not continue as anything estrogen-like that has a positive effect on the body is just as likely to have a negative effect in the way that the real estrogen hormone has. My son, who is also a doctor, said the same thing. Anything that has a good effect can also have a bad side effect whether it is natural or not because in order to have an effect at all it will act in the same way. My son, says the only difference between natural remedies and the synthetic ones is that the natural ones are less potent which is why they often do not work very well. Also the natural ones are not pure like the synthetic ones so may carry unknown risks too. I would like more information. Has any proper research been done on the effects of soy on menopause? I have never taken HRT but now wonder if I should also cease looking for any so called natural solution to hot flashes.
    I would appreciate any informtion you can offer me

    Marilyn B - Wed, 02 Jul 2003
  • The isoflavones in soy have similar structures to estrogen and probably compete with estrogen in various metabolic pathways in the body. As with drugs there is a dose response to medicine we take. - too little does nothing and too much causes harm. Natural medicine is very complex in that it is has hundreds of compounds that may play a role. I like the following quote by Godfrey P. Oakley "It is really tough to know what is in food, but you can know what is in a pill" The phyto-estrin company website does not tell us what is in their product. Although there are many scientific articles published on using soy and soy products on HRT not all show positive results. Here are some links to help you with your research.
    U-M Health System
    health effects of botanical estrogens
    Third International Symposium on the Role of Soy
    Mayo Clinic Proceedings
    Also check Pubmed and local university or college library in the medical journal section.

    Mike - Thursday 03 Jul 2003

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September 08 2017