Soy and Frequent Dairy Consumption with Subsequent Equol Production Reveals Decreased Gut Health in a Cohort of Healthy Puerto Rican Women

Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2021 Aug 4;18(16):8254. doi: 10.3390/ijerph18168254.


The U.S. Hispanic female population has one of the highest breast cancer (BC) incidence and mortality rates, while BC is the leading cause of cancer death in Puerto Rican women. Certain foods may predispose to carcinogenesis. Our previous studies indicate that consuming combined soy isoflavones (genistein, daidzein, and glycitein) promotes tumor metastasis possibly through increased protein synthesis activated by equol, a secondary dietary metabolite. Equol is a bacterial metabolite produced in about 20-60% of the population that harbor and exhibit specific gut microbiota capable of producing it from daidzein. The aim of the current study was to investigate the prevalence of equol production in Puerto Rican women and identify the equol producing microbiota in this understudied population. Herein, we conducted a cross-sectional characterization of equol production in a clinically based sample of eighty healthy 25-50 year old Puerto Rican women. Urine samples were collected and evaluated by GCMS for the presence of soy isoflavones and metabolites to determine the ratio of equol producers to equol non-producers. Furthermore, fecal samples were collected for gut microbiota characterization on a subset of women using next generation sequencing (NGS). We report that 25% of the participants were classified as equol producers. Importantly, the gut microbiota from equol non-producers demonstrated a higher diversity. Our results suggest that healthy women with soy and high dairy consumption with subsequent equol production may result in gut dysbiosis by having reduced quantities (diversity) of healthy bacterial biomarkers, which might be associated to increased diseased outcomes (e.g., cancer, and other diseases).

Keywords: Puerto Rican women; dairy; equol; gut microbiota; soy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Dietary Supplements
  • Equol*
  • Female
  • Hispanic Americans
  • Humans
  • Isoflavones*
  • Middle Aged
  • Postmenopause


  • Isoflavones
  • Equol