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J Nutr. 2010 Jul;140(7):1390S-4S. doi: 10.3945/jn.109.120626. Epub 2010 May 26.

Cautions and research needs identified at the equol, soy, and menopause research leadership conference.

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Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology, and Center for Nutrient-Gene Interaction, University of Alabama at Birmingham and Purdue University-University of Alabama at Birmingham Botanicals Research Center for Age-Related Disease, Birmingham, AL 35294, USA.


This summary addresses the progress and limitations of existing research on the physiologic properties of the isoflavone daidzein metabolite equol. Previous research demonstrating that physiological equol is its S-enantiomer has led to the preparation of S-(-)equol-enriched products formed by the bacterial fermentation of soy germ. Although this product has interesting properties as described in this workshop, the following important issues must be addressed: 1) the product should be evaluated against a preparation containing an equal amount of pure S-(-)equol to determine whether other components resulting from the fermentation are contributing to the physiological effects; 2) evaluation of the cellular mechanisms of S-(-)equol using cell culture methods should be conducted at concentrations consistent with those encountered physiologically (in the nmol/L range) and in several cell lines representing a target tissue; and 3) in follow-up studies in animal models and in human clinical trials, standardized preparations of S-(-)equol should be made available. Research opportunities now exist to determine whether equol's apparent effects on menopausal symptoms (hot flashes, sleep disturbances, bone health) in equol producers can be extended to equol nonproducers. It will be important to ensure that such research is not complicated by cultural differences, differences in lifetime exposure to soy products, experimental techniques, and other variables. Further areas of research that would benefit from the availability of S-(-)equol preparations include its use in skin care (either as an antioxidant or as an estrogen receptor agonist) and in the treatment of brain injury as well as postmenopausal cognitive decline.

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