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Steroids. 1992 Feb;57(2):56-61.

Effects of a phytoestrogen diet on estrogen-dependent reproductive processes in immature female rats.

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Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, Connecticut.


The study reported here examined the effects of a phytoestrogen diet on progestin receptor induction, vaginal opening, and the onset and maintenance of vaginal cycles in developing female rats. A natural dietary concentration (0.01%) of the isoflavonoid coumestrol was incorporated into the AIN semipurified diet and fed from 21 to 24 days (acute treatment) or from 22 to 60 days (chronic treatment). Progestin receptor induction was observed in the uterus, pituitary, and hypothalamus-preoptic area following acute treatment. Responses were more marked in the uterus and pituitary than in the hypothalamus-preoptic area. Vaginal opening was accelerated by 4 days during chronic coumestrol treatment and occurred at a lighter body weight. Vaginal cycles began on vaginal opening and did not differ in regularity from those of control animals. However, irregular cycles were observed in coumestrol-treated animals at 116 to 131 days, suggesting that chronic coumestrol treatment may have induced some permanent changes in reproductive function. These findings demonstrate that plant estrogens, at natural dietary levels, produce significant, agonistic actions in several estrogen-dependent tissues and processes.

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