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Am J Clin Nutr. 2002 Dec;76(6):1191-201.

Beneficial role of dietary phytoestrogens in obesity and diabetes.

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Phytonutrients Laboratory, Beltsville Human Nutrition Research Center, Agricultural Research Service, US Department of Agriculture, Beltsville, MD 20705, USA.


Evidence is emerging that dietary phytoestrogens play a beneficial role in obesity and diabetes. Nutritional intervention studies performed in animals and humans suggest that the ingestion of soy protein associated with isoflavones and flaxseed rich in lignans improves glucose control and insulin resistance. In animal models of obesity and diabetes, soy protein has been shown to reduce serum insulin and insulin resistance. In studies of human subjects with or without diabetes, soy protein also appears to moderate hyperglycemia and reduce body weight, hyperlipidemia, and hyperinsulinemia, supporting its beneficial effects on obesity and diabetes. However, most of these clinical trials were relatively short and involved a small number of patients. Furthermore, it is not clear whether the beneficial effects of soy protein and flaxseed are due to isoflavones (daidzein and genistein), lignans (matairesinol and secoisolariciresinol), or some other component. Isoflavones and lignans appear to act through various mechanisms that modulate pancreatic insulin secretion or through antioxidative actions. They may also act via estrogen receptor-mediated mechanisms. Some of these actions have been shown in vitro, but the relevance of these studies to in vivo disease is not known. The diversity of cellular actions of isoflavones and lignans supports their possible beneficial effects on various chronic diseases. Further investigations are needed to evaluate the long-term effects of phytoestrogens on obesity and diabetes mellitus and their associated possible complications.

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