Annu Rev Plant Biol. 2004;55:225-61. doi: 10.1146/annurev.arplant.55.031903.141729.


Collectively, plants contain several different families of natural products among which are compounds with weak estrogenic or antiestrogenic activity toward mammals. These compounds, termed phytoestrogens, include certain isoflavonoids, flavonoids, stilbenes, and lignans. The best-studied dietary phytoestrogens are the soy isoflavones and the flaxseed lignans. Their perceived health beneficial properties extend beyond hormone-dependent breast and prostate cancers and osteoporosis to include cognitive function, cardiovascular disease, immunity and inflammation, and reproduction and fertility. In the future, metabolic engineering of plants could generate novel and exquisitely controlled dietary sources with which to better assess the potential health beneficial effects of phytoestrogens.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Diet
  • Flavonoids / metabolism
  • Food Analysis
  • Humans
  • Lignans / classification
  • Lignans / metabolism
  • Phytoestrogens / classification
  • Phytoestrogens / metabolism*
  • Plant Physiological Phenomena
  • Plants / classification
  • Plants / metabolism


  • Flavonoids
  • Lignans
  • Phytoestrogens