Phytoestrogens enhance antioxidant enzymes after swimming exercise and modulate sex hormone plasma levels in female swimmers

Eur J Appl Physiol. 2011 Sep;111(9):2281-94. doi: 10.1007/s00421-011-1862-y. Epub 2011 Feb 18.


Our aim was to investigate the effects of diet supplementation with phytoestrogens on sex hormone levels, antioxidant adaptive responses and oxidative damage induced by exercise. Ten female swimmers participated for 26 days in a diet intervention with either a functional beverage rich in vitamins C and E or the same beverage but also supplemented with Lippia citriodora extract (PLX) containing 20 mg/100 ml verbascoside. After the intervention all subjects participated in a swimming session for 30 min maintaining the intensity at about 75-80% of their individual best performance time for a 50-m swim. In lymphocytes, the superoxide dismutase activity increased after exercise, with a higher increase in the PLX group. Swimming increased the erythrocyte activity of glutathione peroxidase and glutathione reductase in the PLX group. Purified glutathione reductase activity increased after an in vitro incubation with PLX. No effects were observed on the lymphocyte levels of malondialdehyde and carbonyls, but exercise increased the percentage of high-damaged lymphocytes 2.8 times in the placebo group and 1.5 times in the PLX group. PLX decreased the levels of 17-β-estradiol and testosterone and increased the levels of the sex hormone binding globulin. In conclusion, supplementation with phytoestrogens enhances the glutathione-dependent enzyme activities in erythrocytes and the superoxide dismutase activity in lymphocytes in response to exercise. PLX also shows direct antioxidant properties, by increasing glutathione reductase enzyme activity in vitro. Supplementation with phytoestrogens also decreases the plasma steroid hormone levels, pointing towards a possible agonistic effect of verbascoside in the hypothalamic regulation of estradiol synthesis.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Antioxidants / metabolism*
  • Ascorbic Acid / administration & dosage
  • Ascorbic Acid / pharmacology
  • Catalase / blood
  • Catalase / metabolism
  • Dietary Supplements
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Enzymes / blood
  • Enzymes / metabolism*
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Female
  • Glutathione Peroxidase / blood
  • Glutathione Peroxidase / metabolism
  • Glutathione Reductase / blood
  • Glutathione Reductase / metabolism
  • Gonadal Steroid Hormones / blood*
  • Humans
  • Phytoestrogens / administration & dosage
  • Phytoestrogens / pharmacology*
  • Sex Factors
  • Superoxide Dismutase / blood
  • Superoxide Dismutase / metabolism
  • Swimming / physiology*
  • Up-Regulation / drug effects
  • Vitamin E / administration & dosage
  • Vitamin E / pharmacology


  • Antioxidants
  • Enzymes
  • Gonadal Steroid Hormones
  • Phytoestrogens
  • Vitamin E
  • Catalase
  • Glutathione Peroxidase
  • Superoxide Dismutase
  • Glutathione Reductase
  • Ascorbic Acid