A double-blind randomized study on the effects of red clover isoflavones on the endometrium

Menopause. 2001 Sep-Oct;8(5):338-46. doi: 10.1097/00042192-200109000-00008.


Objective: To assess the effects of a red clover-derived isoflavone extract on the Ki-67 proliferative marker of endometrial biopsies in 45-to 50-year-old perimenopausal women. We hypothesized that we would be able to detect a decrease in the Ki-67 proliferative index during the late follicular phase after a 3-month course of approximately 50 mg red clover isoflavones. Isoflavones have been found to have some antiestrogenic effects, and an antiproliferative effect during the perimenopausal period may be especially useful owing to the excessive endometrial proliferation often characteristic of this period.

Design: In a double-blind, randomized, controlled study, 30 women between the ages of 45 and 50 years consented to an endometrial biopsy before and after a 3-month course of either placebo or active isoflavone extract. The biopsies were timed as close as possible to days 7-11 of the menstrual cycle, and simultaneous measurements of transvaginal endometrial thickness, uterine artery Doppler, hormone profiles, lipids, and bone markers were performed.

Results: Of 30 women, 2 did not return for a second biopsy, and a third had an unsuccessful second biopsy. Four subjects were excluded from the Intention to Treat analysis because they did not have a menstrual bleed within the time frame of the study (3 subjects) or were tested on day 13 instead of between days 7 and 11 of the cycle (1 subject). There was no change in the Ki-67 proliferation index after treatment in either group. Eight subjects in the placebo group and eight in the P-07 group had proliferative endometrial biopsies that were synchronized with estradiol levels at baseline and post-treatment, and analysis of these subjects revealed no detectable change in the relationship between estradiol levels and Ki-67 with treatment in either group. There was no change in fasting lipids, bone markers, uterine Doppler resistance, or pulsatility index.

Conclusion: In this small pilot study, we did not find, using immunohistochemical quantification of the Ki-67 antigen, that red clover isoflavones had an antiproliferative effect in the endometrium. Small sample size, examination of a relatively short interval in the menstrual cycle, and isoflavone formulation may have contributed to our lack of findings; however, we believe that the issue of isoflavones and their possible antiproliferative effect is deserving of further study. A simpler physiological model with less hormonal variability, such as healthy, recently menopausal women on predetermined doses of estrogen, may prove to be more informative.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Cell Division
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Endometrial Neoplasms / prevention & control
  • Endometrium / drug effects*
  • Female
  • Follicular Phase / physiology
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Isoflavones / pharmacology*
  • Isoflavones / therapeutic use
  • Ki-67 Antigen / metabolism
  • Middle Aged
  • Pilot Projects
  • Plants, Medicinal*
  • Ultrasonography, Doppler
  • Uterus / diagnostic imaging


  • Isoflavones
  • Ki-67 Antigen