Genistein and daidzein, the two major soy isoflavones, principally occur in nature as their glycosylated or methoxylated derivatives, which are cleaved in the large intestine to yield the free aglycones and further metabolites. The objective of this study was to compare the antioxidant activities of genistein and daidzein with their glycosylated and methoxylated derivatives and also those of their human metabolites. The abilities of these compounds to inhibit lipid peroxidation in a liposomal system were evaluated using fluorescence spectroscopy, and structural criteria that enhance antioxidant activity were established. The peroxidation initiators employed in the study were Fe(II) and Fe(III) metal ions and aqueous-phase, azo-derived peroxyl radicals. Both the parent isoflavonoids and their metabolites were more effective at suppressing metal-ion-induced peroxidations than the peroxyl-radical-induced peroxidation. Antioxidant activities for the isoflavone metabolites were comparable to or superior to those for the parent compounds. Equol and its 4-hydroxy and 5-hydroxy derivatives were the most potent antioxidants in the study, suggesting that absence of the 2, 3-double bond and the 4-oxo group on the isoflavone nucleus enhances antioxidant activity. Additionally, the number and position of hydroxyl groups were determining factors for isoflavonoid antioxidant activity, with hydroxyl substitution being of utmost importance at the C-4' position, of moderate importance at the C-5 position, and of little significance at the C-7 position.
Copyright 1998 Academic Press.