Genistein, a phytoestrogen, improves total cholesterol, and Synergy, a prebiotic, improves calcium utilization, but there were no synergistic effects

Menopause. 2011 Aug;18(8):923-31. doi: 10.1097/gme.0b013e3182116e81.


Objective: Prebiotics and phytoestrogens have sparked great interest because evidence indicates that the consumption of these dietary constituents leads to lower cholesterol levels and inhibition of postmenopausal bone loss. The aim of this study was to determine the effect of both a prebiotic (Synergy) and a phytoestrogen (genistein) on bone and blood lipid levels in an animal model of postmenopausal women.

Methods: A 4-week feeding study was conducted in 5-month-old ovariectomized (OVX) Sprague-Dawley rats to examine the effect of genistein, Synergy (a prebiotic), and genistein and Synergy combined on bone density and strength, calcium metabolism, and lipid biomarkers. There were six treatment groups: sham control, OVX control, OVX rats receiving daily estradiol injections, and OVX rats receiving an AIN-93M diet supplement with 200 ppm genistein, with 5% Synergy or with 200 ppm genistein and 5% Synergy combined.

Results: The rats receiving genistein had significantly lower total serum cholesterol concentrations than OVX rats in the control group (17%), OVX rats receiving daily estradiol injections (14%), and OVX rats fed the 5% Synergy diet (19%). Consumption of Synergy improved calcium absorption efficiency (41%) compared with nonconsumption (OVX control). Sham control rats had a significantly higher femoral bone density, as determined by underwater weighing, than did the rats in all of the OVX groups. Genistein consumption restored total and trabecular bone mineral density at the distal femur similar to the levels of sham rats.

Conclusions: Genistein supplementation imparts modest heart health benefits and improves bone geometry at the distal femur, and prebiotic consumption (Synergy) results in improved calcium utilization strength in ovariectomized rats, but the combination produced no synergistic effects.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bone Density / drug effects
  • Bone and Bones / metabolism
  • Calcium / metabolism*
  • Cholesterol / metabolism*
  • Drug Synergism
  • Female
  • Femur / metabolism
  • Genistein / pharmacology*
  • Osteoporosis / drug therapy*
  • Osteoporosis / etiology
  • Ovariectomy / adverse effects
  • Phytoestrogens / pharmacology*
  • Prebiotics*
  • Probiotics / pharmacology*
  • Random Allocation
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley


  • Phytoestrogens
  • Prebiotics
  • Cholesterol
  • Genistein
  • Calcium