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Reprod Toxicol. 2004 Jun;18(4):605-11.

Reproductive toxicity assessment of chronic dietary exposure to soy isoflavones in male rats.

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IIT Research Institute, Chicago, IL 60616, USA.


Epidemiologic and experimental data suggest that consumption of diets that are rich in isoflavones may decrease cancer risk in the breast, prostate, and other tissues. Isoflavones such as genistein and daidzein are structurally similar to endogenous estrogens, and demonstrate both estrogenic and weak anti-estrogenic activities; these activities may underlie the impaired fertility and reproductive tract disorders reported in animals exposed to high doses of isoflavones. To identify possible effects of isoflavones on male fertility, we evaluated reproductive parameters in Wistar-Unilever rats receiving dietary exposure to PTI G-2535, a characterized mixture of soy-derived isoflavones containing 45% genistein, 23% daidzein, and 4% glycitein. Beginning at 10 weeks of age, rats received chronic dietary exposure to the soy isoflavone mixture (200 or 2000 mg/kg diet) for a minimum of 12 months. Controls received unsupplemented chow diet only for the same period. Dietary exposure to isoflavones induced no gross toxicity or alterations in body weight gain. Absolute and relative weights of the testis and epididymis in groups receiving high or low doses of isoflavones were comparable to those of controls, and histopathologic evaluations demonstrated that testicular morphology was similar in all study groups. Isoflavone exposure had no significant effects on spermatid count, sperm production, or sperm morphology in any group. These data suggest that the reproductive system of adult male rats is relatively insensitive to isoflavone toxicity at dose levels that demonstrate significant activity in cancer chemoprevention, and that male reproductive function is unlikely to be affected by long-term administration of isoflavones for cancer prevention or other purposes. The results of this study conducted in adult male rats differ from the significant alterations in reproductive parameters that have been reported in female rats receiving prenatal or juvenile exposure to isoflavones.

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