Soy isoflavones prevent bone resorption and loss, a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials

Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2020;60(14):2327-2341. doi: 10.1080/10408398.2019.1635078. Epub 2019 Jul 10.


Background: Osteoporosis is a common bone disease characterized by reduced bone mass resulting from continuous bone resorption.

Methods: PubMed, Scopus, and Embase were searched to find published trials on the effect of soy isoflavones on bone mineral density (BMD) and bone turnover markers (bone-specific alkaline phosphatase, osteocalcin, osteoprotegerin, pyridinoline, deoxypyridinoline, C-telopeptide, and N-telopeptide). Random-effects inverse-variance model was used to calculate the pooled effects.

Results: A total of 5313 articles were found, screened, and assessed for eligibility, and finally 52 trials were included in the meta-analysis. Consumption of soy isoflavones caused significant improvement in BMD of lumbar spine (mean difference (MD) = 0.76%; 95% CI: 0.09, 1.42%; p = 0.03), hip (MD = 0.22%; 95% CI: 0.02, 0.42%; p = 0.04), and femoral neck (MD = 2.27%; 95% CI: 1.22, 3.31%; p < 0.001). Subgroup analysis showed that in all 3 sites, the improvement was significant in normal weight subjects and interventions longer than a year, although trial location and dosage were also factors influencing isoflavones' impact on BMD. Among markers of bone turnover, osteoprotegerin (MD = 5.79; 95% CI: 3.08, 8.51 pg/ml; p < 0.001), pyridinoline (MD = -5.13; 95% CI: -7.76, -2.50 nmol/mmol; p < 0.001), and C-telopeptides (MD = -0.08; 95% CI: -0.16, -0.00 ng/ml; p = 0.04) were favorably affected by isoflavones while osteocalcin and bone alkaline phosphatase did not change. Subgroup analysis of bone markers showed that in overweight/obese individuals and dosages <90 mg/day, isoflavones are more effective.

Conclusions: Soy isoflavones prevent osteoporosis-related bone loss in any weight status or treatment duration. They increase BMD in normal weight subjects and diminish bone resorption in overweight/obese individuals. Although bone resorption may be decelerated over short-term isoflavone consumption, periods longer than a year are probably needed to affect BMD. Isoflavones also appear benefits on bone in any dose or subjects' ethnicity.

Keywords: BMD; Isoflavones; bone; bone mineral density; bone resorption; bone turnover markers.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Bone Density / drug effects*
  • Bone Resorption / prevention & control*
  • Humans
  • Isoflavones / pharmacology*
  • Osteoporosis / prevention & control*
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Soybeans / chemistry*


  • Isoflavones