Isoflavones are safe and effective, say academics

By Shane Starling

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Breast cancer Estrogen

Emerging human studies in isoflavones demonstrating the “modest but valuable benefit for menopause relief” presented at a symposium of almost 20 isoflavone experts in Italy should dismiss animal studies that have questioned the safety of the antioxidants, according to the US Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN).

The scientists examined studies collected in the past 20 years, as well as newer trials, and came away concluding the soy and red clover-derived isoflavones do not increase the risk of breast cancer and can offer very real relief to post-menopausal women.

“Some of the yet-to-be published material is very high-profile data that cannot be ignored,”​ Douglas MacKay, vice president of scientific and regulatory affairs at CRN, told this morning.

“This data should put the doubts that have risen around negative results of some animal trials to rest. It really clarifies the benefit which, although modest, is highly valuable to the large numbers of post-menopausal women. It’s a great tool for women.”

Although much of the science remains unpublished, it has been sent to a European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) working group that is investigating isoflavones this year.

A public comment period will close at the end of this month and the working group is due to deliver its findings at the end of the year.

The symposium

The gathering in Milan looked at isoflavones and breast cancer one day and isoflavones and menopause the other.

“According to the science presented at this meeting, isoflavones do not have an effect on breast cell proliferation or breast tissue density, which are two well-established biomarkers of breast cancer risk,”​ said long-time soy researcher, Mark Messina, PhD.

“In fact, epidemiologic data presented at the meeting showed that exposure to isoflavone-rich soyfoods may improve the prognosis of breast cancer patients. Further, new findings strongly indicated that certain results from some animal studies that have raised concern about the impact of isoflavones on breast cancer are not applicable to humans.”

One review and meta-analysis presented at the meeting concluded isoflavones alleviate hot flash frequency and severity with an overall improvement of about 50 percent.

It is expected much of the material presented at the meeting will be available for publication in coming months.

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