We report information from two workshops sponsored by the National Institutes of Health that were held to a) assess whether dietary estrogens could significantly impact end points in experimental animals, and b) involve program participants and feed manufacturers to address the problems associated with measuring and eliminating batch-to-batch variability in rodent diets that may lead to conflicting findings in animal experiments within and between laboratories. Data were presented at the workshops showing that there is significant batch-to-batch variability in estrogenic content of commercial animal diets, and that this variability results in differences in experimental outcomes. A combination of methods were proposed to determine levels of total estrogenic activity and levels of specific estrogenic constituents in soy-containing, casein-containing, and other soy-free rodent diets. Workshop participants recommended that researchers pay greater attention to the type of diet being used in animal studies and choose a diet whose estrogenic activity (or lack thereof) is appropriate for the experimental model and end points of interest. Information about levels of specific phytoestrogens, as well as estrogenic activity caused by other contaminants and measured by bioassay, should be disclosed in scientific publications. This will require laboratory animal diet manufacturers to provide investigators with information regarding the phytoestrogen content and other estrogenic compounds in commercial diets used in animal research.
Keywords: animal diets; batch-to-batch variability; bioassay; estrogenic contaminants; isoflavones; phytoestrogens.