Isoflavonoids - an overview of their biological activities and potential health benefits

Interdiscip Toxicol. 2009 Dec;2(4):211-8. doi: 10.2478/v10102-009-0021-3. Epub 2009 Dec 28.


There are many biological activities attributed to isoflavonoids. The majority of them could be beneficial and some of them may be detrimental, depending on specific circumstances. Isoflavonoids play an important role in human nutrition as health promoting natural chemicals. They belong to plant secondary metabolites that mediate diverse biological functions through numerous pathways. They are structurally similar to estrogens, exerting both estrogenic and antiestrogenic properties in various tissues. The results of epidemiologic studies exploring the role of isoflavonoids in human health have been inconclusive. Some studies support the notion of a protective effect of their consumption in immunomodulation, cognition, risk reduction of certain cancers, cardiovascular and skin diseases, osteoporosis and obesity, as well as relief of menopausal symptoms. Other studies failed to demonstrate any effects.

Keywords: health benefits; isoflavonoids; mechanisms of action; phytoestrogens.