Metabolism of the soy isoflavones daidzein, genistein and glycitein in human subjects. Identification of new metabolites having an intact isoflavonoid skeleton

J Steroid Biochem Mol Biol. 2003 Dec;87(4-5):285-99. doi: 10.1016/j.jsbmb.2003.09.003.


Epidemiological studies have associated high soy intake with a lowered risk for certain hormone-dependent diseases. Soy and soy foods are rich sources of isoflavones, which have been shown to possess several biological activities. In this study, the metabolism of soy isoflavones daidzein, genistein and glycitein was investigated in human subjects. The aim was to find and identify urinary phase I metabolites of isoflavones, which have an intact isoflavonoid skeleton, and which might possess some bioactivity. Six volunteers included three soy bars per day into their normal western diet for a 2-week period. Daily urine samples were collected before, and after the supplementation period. Urine samples were hydrolyzed with Helix pomatia, extracted with diethyl ether, purified with Sephadex LH-20 chromatography, and analyzed as trimethylsilyl derivatives using gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS). The structures of the isoflavone metabolites were identified using authentic reference compounds. The metabolites, for which authentic reference compounds were not available, were identified by the interpretation of mass spectra. Several new isoflavone metabolites were identified, and the presence of previously reported metabolites confirmed. The metabolic pathways of daidzein, genistein and glycitein are presented on the basis of the identification of the metabolites in human urine after soy supplementation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Chromatography, Gas
  • Dietary Supplements
  • Female
  • Genistein / chemistry
  • Genistein / urine*
  • Humans
  • Isoflavones / chemistry
  • Isoflavones / urine*
  • Male
  • Reference Standards
  • Soybeans / chemistry*
  • Spectrometry, Mass, Electrospray Ionization


  • Isoflavones
  • daidzein
  • glycitein
  • Genistein