Functional effects of Japanese style fermented soy sauce (shoyu) and its components

J Biosci Bioeng. 2005 Sep;100(3):227-34. doi: 10.1263/jbb.100.227.


The functional effects of Japanese style fermented soy sauce (shoyu) have been studied. Soy sauce promotes digestion, because the consumption of a cup of clear soup containing soy sauce enhances gastric juice secretion in humans. Soy sauce possesses antimicrobial activity against bacteria such as Staphylococcus aureus, Shigella flexneri, Vibrio cholera, Salmonella enteritidis, nonpathogenic Escherichia coli and pathogenic E. coli O157:H7. Soy sauce also contains an antihypertensive component. An angiotensin I-converting enzyme inhibitor having antihypertensive effects was found in soy sauce. The active compound was identified as nicotianamine, which comes from soybeans. Soy sauce exhibits anticarcinogenic effects. Giving diets containing soy sauce to mice inhibit benzo[a]pyrene (BP)-induced forestomach neoplasia. The anticarcinogenic compounds in soy sauce were identified. The flavor components of Japanese style fermented soy sauce, such as 4-hydroxy-2(or 5)-ethyl-5(or 2)-methyl-3(2H)-furanone (HEMF), which is a characteristic flavor component of Japanese style fermented soy sauce and 4-hydroxy-2,5-dimethyl-3(2H)-furanone (HDMF) and 4-hydroxy-5-methyl-3(2H)-furanone (HMF) exhibit antioxidant activities and anticarcinogenic effects on BP-induced mice forestomach neoplasia when fed following carcinogen exposure. The feeding of a diet containing 10% soy sauce to male C3H mice for 13 months also reduces the frequency and multiplicity of spontaneous liver tumors. HDMF and HEMF also exhibit anticataract effects in the spontaneous cataract rat (ICR/f rat). Fermented soy sauce contains three tartaric isoflavone derivatives called shoyuflavones. These shoyuflavones were shown to have inhibitory activities against histidine decarboxylase, which produces histamine, a mediator of inflammation, allergy and gastric acid secretion. Soy sauce also exhibits antiplatelet activity. beta-Carbolines were isolated from soy sauce as the active compounds. Soybeans and wheat, which are the main raw materials of soy sauce, are allergenic foods. However, recent studies by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay showed the absence of soybean and wheat allergens in soy sauce.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / pharmacology
  • Anticarcinogenic Agents / pharmacology
  • Azetidinecarboxylic Acid / analogs & derivatives
  • Azetidinecarboxylic Acid / pharmacology
  • Azetidinecarboxylic Acid / therapeutic use
  • Cataract / prevention & control
  • Fermentation
  • Gastric Juice / drug effects
  • Gastric Juice / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Hypersensitivity / metabolism
  • Mice
  • Soy Foods* / analysis
  • Soy Foods* / standards


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Anticarcinogenic Agents
  • nicotianamine
  • Azetidinecarboxylic Acid