Phytoestrogens and bone

Baillieres Clin Endocrinol Metab. 1998 Dec;12(4):543-57. doi: 10.1016/s0950-351x(98)80003-7.


Practically all plant foods contain small amounts of the diverse phytoestrogen molecules that have the potential to improve health. Phytoestrogens, especially the soy-derived isoflavones, are receiving great scrutiny as food supplements for the purposes of both enhancing the health of tissues and preventing several common diseases, such as cardiovascular diseases, cancers of reproductive tissues and osteoporosis. Investigations of isoflavones, in particular, have recently become more prominent because of their oestrogenic activities. These actions may be as either partial oestrogen agonists or anti-oestrogens (inhibitors of natural oestrogen activity). For example, the isoflavones of soy, mainly genistein and daidzein, have been shown by at least three different laboratories to conserve bone in ovariectomized rodent models, and they probably have similar conservatory effects in higher mammalian species. Nevertheless, the only positive effects of phytoestrogens on bone observed so far in post-menopausal women have been small and limited to the lumbar vertebrae. Additional information on human studies currently in progress is needed before the efficacy of these preparations in human subjects is known.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bone and Bones* / drug effects
  • Estrogens, Non-Steroidal* / chemistry
  • Estrogens, Non-Steroidal* / pharmacology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Isoflavones
  • Osteoblasts / drug effects
  • Osteoclasts / drug effects
  • Osteoporosis / prevention & control
  • Phytoestrogens
  • Plant Preparations
  • Soybeans


  • Estrogens, Non-Steroidal
  • Isoflavones
  • Phytoestrogens
  • Plant Preparations