Circulating levels of isoflavones and markers of 5alpha-reductase activity are higher in Japanese compared with New Zealand males: what is the role of circulating steroids in prostate disease?

Steroids. 2005 Dec 15;70(14):974-9. doi: 10.1016/j.steroids.2005.06.008. Epub 2005 Aug 30.


Epidemiological evidence implicates dietary isoflavone intake as protective against prostate disease. A putative mechanism is attenuated circulating androgen levels in male populations consuming an isoflavone rich diet. We investigated this hypothesis by collecting plasma from 60 Japanese and 60 New Zealand males aged between 21 and 31 years each consuming their traditional diets. We measured plasma testosterone, dihydrotestosterone (DHT), androstenedione, dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate (DHEAS), the combined levels of androsterone sulfate and epiandrosterone sulfate (AoS/epiAoS), sex hormone-binding globulin, and cortisol and corticosteroid-binding globulin as well as the isoflavones genistein and equol. Plasma genistein and equol levels were several times higher in Japanese males as would be expected from an isoflavone rich diet. However, androstenedione, DHEAS, calculated free testosterone and paradoxically markers of 5alpha-reductase, DHT and AoS/epiAoS were all also significantly higher in Japanese rather than the New Zealand male counterparts. All other comparisons were not significant. Plasma DHT and DHEAS correlated positively with plasma equol and plasma AoS/epiAoS correlated positively with genistein levels. Taken together the results suggest that, rather than reduced levels of steroidogenesis, Japanese males may have increased 5alpha-reductase activity and possibly altered 17beta OH steroid dehydrogenase activity. Significantly the positive association between isoflavones levels and 5alpha-steroids is counter-intuitive to isoflavone intake offering prostate protection, unless this is postulated to occur through other mechanisms.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Biomarkers / blood
  • Cholestenone 5 alpha-Reductase / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Isoflavones / blood*
  • Japan
  • Male
  • New Zealand
  • Prostatic Diseases / blood*
  • Racial Groups
  • Steroids / blood*


  • Biomarkers
  • Isoflavones
  • Steroids
  • Cholestenone 5 alpha-Reductase