Estrogen receptor-mediated effects of isoflavone supplementation were not observed in whole-genome gene expression profiles of peripheral blood mononuclear cells in postmenopausal, equol-producing women

J Nutr. 2013 Jun;143(6):774-80. doi: 10.3945/jn.113.174037. Epub 2013 Apr 24.


Isoflavones (genistein, daidzein, and glycitein) are suggested to have benefits as well as risks for human health. Approximately one-third of the Western population is able to metabolize daidzein into the more potent metabolite equol. Having little endogenous estradiol, equol-producing postmenopausal women who use isoflavone supplements to relieve their menopausal symptoms could potentially be at high risk of adverse effects of isoflavone supplementation. The current trial aimed to study the effects of intake of an isoflavone supplement rich in daidzein compared with placebo on whole-genome gene expression profiles of peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) in equol-producing, postmenopausal women. Thirty participants received an isoflavone supplement or a placebo for 8 wk each in a double-blind, randomized cross-over design. The isoflavone supplement was rich in daidzein (60%) and provided 94 mg isoflavones (aglycone equivalents) daily. Gene expression in PBMCs was significantly changed (P < 0.05) in 357 genes after the isoflavone intervention compared with placebo. Gene set enrichment analysis revealed downregulated clusters of gene sets involved in inflammation, oxidative phosphorylation, and cell cycle. The expression of estrogen receptor (ER) target genes and gene sets related to ER signaling were not significantly altered, which may be explained by the low ERα and ERβ expression in PBMCs. The observed downregulated gene sets point toward potential beneficial effects of isoflavone supplementation with respect to prevention of cancer and cardiovascular disease. However, whether ER-related effects of isoflavones are beneficial or harmful should be studied in tissues that express ERs.

Trial registration: NCT01232751.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Cross-Over Studies
  • Dietary Supplements
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Equol / biosynthesis*
  • Estrogen Receptor alpha / genetics
  • Estrogen Receptor beta / genetics
  • Female
  • Gene Expression
  • Humans
  • Isoflavones / administration & dosage
  • Isoflavones / adverse effects*
  • Isoflavones / blood
  • Leukocytes, Mononuclear / metabolism*
  • Placebos
  • Postmenopause / metabolism*
  • Receptors, Estrogen / genetics
  • Receptors, Estrogen / physiology*
  • Transcriptome / drug effects*


  • Estrogen Receptor alpha
  • Estrogen Receptor beta
  • Isoflavones
  • Placebos
  • Receptors, Estrogen
  • Equol
  • daidzein

Associated data