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Open AccessReview

Effects of Dietary Phytoestrogens on Hormones throughout a Human Lifespan: A Review

Department of Nutrition, Food Science and Gastronomy, XaRTA, INSA, School of Pharmacy and Food Sciences, University of Barcelona, 08028 Barcelona, Spain
Andrology and IVF Laboratory, Division of Urology, Department of Surgery, University of Utah School of Medicine, Salt Lake City, UT 84108, USA
Centro de Investigación Biomédica en Red Fisiopatología de la Obesidad y la Nutrición (CIBEROBN), Instituto de Salud Carlos III, 28029 Madrid, Spain
Unitat de Nutrició, Departament de Bioquímica i Biotecnologia, Universitat Rovira i Virgili, 43204 Reus, Spain
Institut d’Investigació Sanitària Pere Virgili (IISPV), 43201 Reus, Spain
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Nutrients 2020, 12(8), 2456;
Received: 7 July 2020 / Revised: 31 July 2020 / Accepted: 12 August 2020 / Published: 15 August 2020
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Dietary Polyphenols and Human Health)
Dietary phytoestrogens are bioactive compounds with estrogenic activity. With the growing popularity of plant-based diets, the intake of phytoestrogen-rich legumes (especially soy) and legume-derived foods has increased. Evidence from preclinical studies suggests these compounds may have an effect on hormones and health, although the results of human trials are unclear. The effects of dietary phytoestrogens depend on the exposure (phytoestrogen type, matrix, concentration, and bioavailability), ethnicity, hormone levels (related to age, sex, and physiological condition), and health status of the consumer. In this review, we have summarized the results of human studies on dietary phytoestrogens with the aim of assessing the possible hormone-dependent outcomes and health effects of their consumption throughout a lifespan, focusing on pregnancy, childhood, adulthood, and the premenopausal and postmenopausal stages. In pregnant women, an improvement of insulin metabolism has been reported in only one study. Sex hormone alterations have been found in the late stages of childhood, and goitrogenic effects in children with hypothyroidism. In premenopausal and postmenopausal women, the reported impacts on hormones are inconsistent, although beneficial goitrogenic effects and improved glycemic control and cardiovascular risk markers have been described in postmenopausal individuals. In adult men, different authors report goitrogenic effects and a reduction of insulin in non-alcoholic fatty liver patients. Further carefully designed studies are warranted to better elucidate the impact of phytoestrogen consumption on the endocrine system at different life stages. View Full-Text
Keywords: isoflavones; soy; dietary flavonoids; lignans; flaxseeds; endocrine; stages of life; estrogenic; polyphenols; health isoflavones; soy; dietary flavonoids; lignans; flaxseeds; endocrine; stages of life; estrogenic; polyphenols; health
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Domínguez-López, I.; Yago-Aragón, M.; Salas-Huetos, A.; Tresserra-Rimbau, A.; Hurtado-Barroso, S. Effects of Dietary Phytoestrogens on Hormones throughout a Human Lifespan: A Review. Nutrients 2020, 12, 2456.

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