Soy and alfalfa phytoestrogen extracts become potent low-density lipoprotein antioxidants in the presence of acerola cherry extract

J Agric Food Chem. 2001 Jan;49(1):308-14. doi: 10.1021/jf0007028.


Postmenopausal women have an increased risk of coronary heart disease. Oxidation of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) has been implicated in atherogenesis, and the presence of modified LDL (LDL(-)) in plasma appears to represent LDL oxidation in vivo. Because previous studies have demonstrated a strong antiatherogenic effect of estrogen due to its antioxidant activity and similar antioxidant activity was found for specific isoflavones derived from soy extract, the antioxidant activity of a phytoestrogen extract derived from soy and alfalfa was studied. Copper-mediated LDL oxidation was inhibited in the presence of soy and alfalfa extracts, and this effect was further enhanced in the presence of acerola cherry extract, which is rich in ascorbic acid. Male rabbit aortic endothelial cells pretreated with soy extract were resistant to the toxic effects of high levels of LDL and LDL(-), and a lesser, but significant protection, was also afforded by alfalfa extract. Cell-mediated oxidation of LDL, measured by LDL(-) formation, was inhibited in the presence of soy extract but not alfalfa extract. However, in the presence of acerola cherry extract, both soy and alfalfa extracts potently inhibited the formation of LDL(-). These findings show that acerola cherry extract can enhance the antioxidant activity of soy and alfalfa extracts in a variety of LDL oxidation systems. The protective effect of these extracts is attributed to the presence of flavonoids in soy and alfalfa extracts and ascorbic acid in acerola cherry extract, which may act synergistically as antioxidants. It is postulated that this synergistic interaction among phytoestrogens, flavonoids, and ascorbic acid is due to the "peroxidolitic" action of ascorbic acid, which facilitates the copper-dependent decomposition of LDL peroxides to nonradical products; this synergy is complemented by a mechanism in which phytoestrogens stabilize the LDL structure and suppress the propagation of radical chain reactions. The combination of these extracts markedly lowers the concentrations of phytoestrogens required to achieve significant antioxidant activity toward LDL.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Animals
  • Antioxidants / pharmacology*
  • Aorta
  • Ascorbic Acid / pharmacology
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Copper / pharmacology
  • Endothelium, Vascular
  • Estrogens, Non-Steroidal / pharmacology*
  • Fruit / chemistry*
  • Glycine max / chemistry*
  • Humans
  • Isoflavones*
  • Lipid Peroxidation / drug effects
  • Lipoproteins, LDL / blood*
  • Male
  • Medicago sativa / chemistry*
  • Phytoestrogens
  • Plant Extracts / pharmacology
  • Plant Preparations
  • Rabbits


  • Antioxidants
  • Estrogens, Non-Steroidal
  • Isoflavones
  • Lipoproteins, LDL
  • Phytoestrogens
  • Plant Extracts
  • Plant Preparations
  • Copper
  • Ascorbic Acid