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J Nutr. 2009 Oct;139(10):1908-13. doi: 10.3945/jn.109.108225. Epub 2009 Aug 26.

Supplemental dietary racemic equol has modest benefits to bone but has mild uterotropic activity in ovariectomized rats.

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Department of Foods and Nutrition, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN 47907, USA.


Soy isoflavones and their metabolites, with estrogenic activity, have been considered candidates for reducing postmenopausal bone loss. In this study, we examined the effect of dietary equol, a bioactive metabolite of the soy isoflavone daidzein, on equol tissue distribution, bone parameters, and reproductive tissue activity using an adult ovariectomized (OVX) rat model. An 8-wk feeding study was conducted to compare 4 dietary treatments of equol (0, 50, 100, 200 mg/kg diet) in 6-mo-old OVX female Sprague-Dawley rats. A dose response increase in tissue equol concentrations was observed for serum, liver, kidney, and heart, and a plateau occurred at 100 mg equol/kg diet for intestine. In OVX rats receiving 200 mg equol/kg diet, femoral calcium concentration was greater than those receiving lower doses but was still less than SHAM (P < 0.05), and other bone measures were not improved. Tibia calcium concentrations were lower in OVX rats receiving 100 and 200 mg equol/kg diet compared with the OVX control rats. Trabecular bone mineral density of tibia was also lower in equol-fed OVX rats. At this dietary equol intake, uterine weight was higher (P < 0.05) than in other OVX groups but lower than the SHAM-operated intact rats. The 200 mg/kg diet dose of dietary equol significantly increased proliferative index in the uterine epithelium. Dietary equol had no stimulatory effect on mammary gland epithelium. We conclude that in OVX rats, a dietary equol dose that had modest effect on bone also exerts mild uterotropic effects.

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