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Br J Nutr. 2012 Apr;107(8):1201-6. doi: 10.1017/S0007114511004223. Epub 2011 Sep 16.

Equol production changes over time in pre-menopausal women.

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University of Hawaii Cancer Center, Clinical Sciences Program, 1236 Lauhala Street, Honolulu, HI 96813, USA.


Equol (EQ) is a metabolite produced by gut bacteria through the chemical reduction of the soya isoflavone daidzein (DE), but only by 30-60% of the population. EQ is believed to provide benefits derived from soya intake and its production is widely viewed as a relatively stable phenomenon. In a randomised, cross-over intervention with soya foods, seventy-nine pre-menopausal women were challenged with a high-soya and a low-soya diet each for 6 months, separated by a 1-month washout period. Overnight urine was collected at three time points during each diet period and analysed for DE and EQ by liquid chromatography tandem MS. Remaining an EQ producer (EP) or non-producer (NP) or changing towards an EP or NP was assessed using an EQ:DE ratio of ≥0·018 combined with a DE threshold of ≥2 nmol/mg creatinine as a cut-off point. We observed 19 and 24% EP during the low-soya and high-soya diet periods, respectively, and found that 6-11% of our subjects changed EQ status 'within' each study period (on an average of 1·2 times), while 16% changed 'between' the two diet periods. The present finding challenges the widely held conviction that EQ production within an individual remains stable over time. The precise factors contributing to changes in EQ status, however, remain elusive and warrant further investigation.

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