Xenoestrogens are widely diffused in the environment and in food, thus a large portion of human population worldwide is exposed to them. Among alimentary xenoestrogens, phytoestrogens (PhyEs) are increasingly being consumed because of their potential health benefits, although there are also important risks associated to their ingestion. Furthermore, other xenoestrogens that may be present in food are represented by other chemicals possessing estrogenic activities, that are commonly defined as endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs). EDCs pose a serious health concern since they may cause a wide range of health problems, starting from pre-birth till adult lifelong exposure. We herein provide an overview of the main classes of xenoestrogens, which are classified on the basis of their origin, their structures and their occurrence in the food chain. Furthermore, their either beneficial or toxic effects on human health are discussed in this review.
Keywords: Estrogen receptors; endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs); mycoestrogens; phytoestrogens; xenoestrogens.