Effects of soy isoflavones on cognitive function: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials

Nutr Rev. 2020 Feb 1;78(2):134-144. doi: 10.1093/nutrit/nuz050.


Context: The results of preclinical and observational studies support the beneficial effect of soy isoflavones on cognition.

Objective: This review aimed to evaluate the effects of soy isoflavones on cognition in adults.

Data sources: The PUBMED, EMBASE, Ovid Medline, Cochrane Library, and clinicaltrials.gov databases were searched.

Study selection: Two researchers independently screened 1955 records, using the PICOS criteria: participants were adults; intervention was dietary sources with soy isoflavones or isolated soy isoflavones; comparator was any comparator; outcome was cognitive function; study type was randomized controlled trials (RCTs). A third researcher was consulted to resolve any discrepancies. Sixteen RCTs were included and their quality assessed.

Data extraction: Information on study design, characteristics of participants, and outcomes was extracted. PRISMA guidelines were followed.

Data analysis: A random-effects meta-analysis was used to pool estimates across studies. In the 16 RCTs (1386 participants, mean age = 60 y), soy isoflavones were found to improve overall cognitive function (standardized mean difference [SMD], 0.19; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.07-0.32) and memory (SMD, 0.15; 95%CI, 0.03-0.26).

Conclusion: The results showed that soy isoflavones may improve cognitive function in adults.

Systematic review registration: PROSPERO registration no. CRD42018082070.

Keywords: cognition; isoflavones; meta-analysis.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Cognition / drug effects*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Isoflavones / pharmacology*
  • Isoflavones / therapeutic use
  • Male
  • Memory / drug effects*
  • Middle Aged
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Soybeans / chemistry*


  • Isoflavones