Osteoporosis is an age-related disorder that affects both women and men, although estrogen deficiency induced by menopause accelerates bone loss in older women. As the demographic shifts to a more aged population, a growing number of men and women will be afflicted with osteoporosis. Since the current drug therapies available have multiple side effects, including increased risk of developing certain types of cancer or complications, a search for potential nonpharmacologic alternative therapies for osteoporosis is of prime interest. Soy isoflavones (SI) have demonstrated potential bone-specific effects in a number of studies. This article provides a systematic review of studies on osteoporotic bone loss in relation to SI intake from diet or supplements to comprehensively explain how SI affect the modulation of bone remodeling. Evidence from epidemiologic studies supports that dietary SI attenuate menopause-induced osteoporotic bone loss by decreasing bone resorption and stimulating bone formation. Other studies have also illustrated that bone site-specific trophic and synergistic effects combined with exercise intervention might contribute to improve the bioavailability of SI or strengthen the bone-specific effects. To date, however, the effects of dietary SI on osteoporotic bone loss remain inconclusive, and study results vary from study to study. The current review will discuss the potential factors that result in the conflicting outcomes of these studies, including dosages, intervention materials, study duration, race, and genetic differences. Further well-designed studies are needed to fully understand the underlying mechanism and evaluate the effects of SI on osteoporosis in humans.
Keywords: bone loss; bone remodeling; osteoclast; osteoporosis; soy isoflavones.