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Genistein helps increase bone mass in women

Supplements containing a soy compound called genistein may help increase women's bone mass after menopause.

Genistein helps increase bone mass in women

Supplements containing a soy compound called genistein may help increase women's bone mass after menopause. Genistein is a type of isoflavone—plant chemicals that have effects similar to the female hormone oestrogen and may have certain oestrogen-like effects in humans. The oestrogen decline that follows menopause contributes to bone density loss, and high soy intake is linked to a lower risk of the bone-thinning disease osteoporosis. A combination of genistein, calcium and vitamin D helps protect postmenopausal women's bone density better than calcium and vitamin D alone. However, previous studies on the effects of soy-based foods on bone mass after menopause have been inconsistent. Researchers from the University of Messina in Italy studied 54 milligrams (mg) of genistein a day, which is equivalent of 2 gallons of soymilk or about 8 pounds of tofu per day. The study involved 389 postmenopausal women with lower than normal bone mass that had not yet progressed to osteoporosis. The women were randomly assigned to take either genistein or placebo (inactive) pills, every day for two years. Both the genistein and placebo pills also contained 500 mg of calcium and 400 IU of vitamin D. After two years, bone scans showed that, on an average, women who took genistein had gained some bone density in the hip and lower spine, while those in the placebo group had lost bone mass. However, further research is warranted to find whether or not genistein actually prevents bone fractures over time.   A general concern that high doses of oestrogen-like isoflavones might influence the risk of breast or uterine cancers was countered by the study, as women on genistein showed no thickening in the lining of the uterus, a sign of adverse hormonal effects. Instead, the main side effects were gastrointestinal problems like indigestion and constipation.   However, some caution should be exercised while using genistein supplements. Women should consult their doctors regarding the use of any product containing high amounts of genistein, as this molecule is in very high concentration compared to what one gets in actual soy products.
Annals of Internal Medicine,
June 2007
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