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Maturitas. 2008 Sep-Oct;61(1-2):159-70.

Phytoestrogens: endocrine disrupters or replacement for hormone replacement therapy?

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Department of Clinical and Experimental Endocrinology, University of Göttingen, Robert-Koch-Strasse 40, 37075 Göttingen, Germany.



This review presents findings with clear statements from the literature as well as own results of effects of soy, red clover and their isoflavones as well as of the Cimicifuga racemosa extract BNO 1055. Experimental and clinical effects on climacteric complaints, osteoprotective effects, activity in the urogenital tract, and risks concerning cardiovascular diseases and mammary and endometrial tissue will be compared, also in comparison to classical hormone preparations. The question whether soy and red clover products and/or Cimicifuga racemosa (CR) preparations are endocrine disrupters or may fulfill the criteria of the so-called phyto-SERMs will be discussed.


Review of selected publications since 1980 and summary of unpublished own results of the authors.


Experimental and clinical evidences suggest that soy/red clover and their isoflavones do not fulfill the criteria of an ideal SERM. They appear to have mild osteoprotective effects but do not improve climacteric complaints. Furthermore, they seem to stimulate uterine growth and mammary epithelial proliferation. In ovariectomized rats, the CR extract BNO 1055 showed many of the beneficial effects of 17beta-estradiol, including effects in the brain/hypothalamus to reduce serum LH levels, effects in the bone to prevent osteoporosis and estrogenic effects in the urinary bladder. The CR extract BNO 1055 had no uterotrophic effect.


If clinical studies confirm these results, the Cimicifuga racemosa preparation BNO 1055 would appear as an ideal SERM and may therefore be an alternative to hormone replacement therapy.


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