Effect of red clover-derived isoflavone supplementation on insulin-like growth factor, lipid and antioxidant status in healthy female volunteers: a pilot study

Eur J Clin Nutr. 2004 Jan;58(1):173-9. doi: 10.1038/sj.ejcn.1601764.


Background: Isoflavones are estrogen-like plant compounds that may protect against cardiovascular disease and endocrine-responsive cancer. Isoflavones may, because of their ability to act as selective estrogen receptor modulators, alter insulin-like growth factor (IGF) status.

Objective: The aim of this study was to assess the effect of 1-month isoflavone supplementation (86 mg/day red clover-derived isoflavones) on IGF status.

Design and subjects: Healthy pre- (n=16) and postmenopausal (n=7) women were invited to take part in a randomised, placebo-controlled crossover study with a minimum 2-month washout period.

Results: : For premenopausal subjects, the change in IGF-1, IGF-BP1 and IGF-BP3 assessed at different points of the menstrual cycle did not differ between isoflavone and placebo phase. However, the change in IGF-1, when examined pre- and post-supplementation, was nonsignificantly reduced (P=0.06) on the isoflavone supplement compared to placebo. For postmenopausal subjects, the change in IGF-1, IGF-BP1 and IGFBP-3 concentrations over the supplementation period did not differ between isoflavone or placebo phase. Isoflavones increased HDL in postmenopausal women compared to placebo (P=0.02) but did not alter either cholesterol or triacylglycerol concentrations, and had no effect on antioxidant status.

Conclusions: This study shows that 1-month supplementation with red clover isoflavones has a positive effect on HDL cholesterol, but at most a small effect on IGF status in premenopausal and no effect in postmenopausal subjects. Further studies are required to ascertain the role these dietary compounds may have to play in breast cancer prevention.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Cholesterol, HDL / blood
  • Cholesterol, HDL / drug effects*
  • Cross-Over Studies
  • Dietary Supplements
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Insulin-Like Growth Factor Binding Protein 1 / metabolism
  • Insulin-Like Growth Factor Binding Protein 3 / metabolism
  • Isoflavones / administration & dosage
  • Isoflavones / pharmacology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Pilot Projects
  • Postmenopause / blood*
  • Premenopause / blood*
  • Somatomedins / drug effects
  • Somatomedins / metabolism*
  • Trifolium / chemistry*


  • Cholesterol, HDL
  • Insulin-Like Growth Factor Binding Protein 1
  • Insulin-Like Growth Factor Binding Protein 3
  • Isoflavones
  • Somatomedins