Neither soy nor isoflavone intake affects male reproductive hormones: An expanded and updated meta-analysis of clinical studies

Reprod Toxicol. 2021 Mar:100:60-67. doi: 10.1016/j.reprotox.2020.12.019. Epub 2020 Dec 28.


Concerns that the phytoestrogens (isoflavones) in soy may feminize men continue to be raised. Several studies and case-reports describing feminizing effects including lowering testosterone levels and raising estrogen levels in men have been published. For this reason, the clinical data were meta-analyzed to determine whether soy or isoflavone intake affects total testosterone (TT), free testosterone (FT), estradiol (E2), estrone (E1), and sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG). PubMed and CAB Abstracts databases were searched between 2010 and April 2020, with use of controlled vocabulary specific to the databases. Peer-reviewed studies published in English were selected if (1) adult men consumed soyfoods, soy protein, or isoflavone extracts (from soy or red clover) and [2] circulating TT, FT, SHBG, E2 or E1 was assessed. Data were extracted by two independent reviewers. With one exception, studies included in a 2010 meta-analysis were included in the current analysis. A total of 41 studies were included in the analyses. TT and FT levels were measured in 1753 and 752 men, respectively; E2 and E1 levels were measured in 1000 and 239 men, respectively and SHBG was measured in 967 men. Regardless of the statistical model, no significant effects of soy protein or isoflavone intake on any of the outcomes measured were found. Sub-analysis of the data according to isoflavone dose and study duration also showed no effect. This updated and expanded meta-analysis indicates that regardless of dose and study duration, neither soy protein nor isoflavone exposure affects TT, FT, E2 or E1 levels in men.

Keywords: Estrogen; Isoflavones; Phytoestrogens; Soy; Testosterone.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Diet
  • Dietary Supplements
  • Estrogens / blood*
  • Feminization / chemically induced
  • Humans
  • Isoflavones / administration & dosage*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Phytoestrogens / administration & dosage*
  • Soybean Proteins / administration & dosage*
  • Testosterone / blood*
  • Young Adult


  • Estrogens
  • Isoflavones
  • Phytoestrogens
  • Soybean Proteins
  • Testosterone