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J Nutr. 2002 Apr;132(4):708-14.

Effects of soy consumption on gonadotropin secretion and acute pituitary responses to gonadotropin-releasing hormone in women.

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Department of Nutrition, University of California-Davis, CA 95616, USA.


Soy contains the isoflavone phytoestrogens, genistein and daidzein. These isoflavones are partial estrogen agonists in cell and animal models, but effects from dietary soy in humans are unclear. Experiments were conducted in pre- and postmenopausal women to examine whether dietary isoflavones from soy behave as estrogen agonists, antagonists or have no effect on the estrogen-sensitive pituitary. Pituitary sensitivity to gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH), an estrogen-sensitive endpoint, was measured during GnRH challenge tests administered before, during and after dietary soy consumption. The response to an isoflavone-rich soy food diet was examined in five premenopausal and seven postmenopausal women using transdermal estrogen replacement therapy. Estrogen agonists suppress gonadotropin concentrations and enhance GnRH priming (enhanced gonadotropin secretion in response to repeated doses of GnRH), whereas antagonists elevate gonadotropin concentrations and have no effect on GnRH priming. Each subject consumed 50 g textured soy protein containing 60 mg total isoflavones daily for 10-14 d. Baseline estradiol concentrations were consistent among study periods. In both pre- and postmenopausal women, soy consumption did not affect mean baseline or peak luteinizing hormone (LH) concentrations, indicating a lack of estrogen-like effect at the level of the pituitary. However, in postmenopausal subjects, mean LH secretion decreased after discontinuing soy, suggesting a residual estrogenic effect. In one premenopausal woman, enhanced LH secretion was observed after soy treatment, suggesting there may be subpopulations of women who are highly sensitive to isoflavones.

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