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Nutrients. 2010 Nov;2(11):1156-87. doi: 10.3390/nu2111156. Epub 2010 Nov 23.

Early exposure to soy isoflavones and effects on reproductive health: a review of human and animal studies.

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Department of Nutritional Science, Faculty of Medicine, University of Toronto, Ontario, Canada.


Soy isoflavones are phytoestrogens with potential hormonal activity due to their similar chemical structure to 17-β-estradiol. The increasing availability of soy isoflavones throughout the food supply and through use of supplements has prompted extensive research on biological benefits to humans in chronic disease prevention and health maintenance. While much of this research has focused on adult populations, infants fed soy protein based infant formulas are exposed to substantial levels of soy isoflavones, even when compared to adult populations that consume a higher quantity of soy-based foods. Infant exposure, through soy formula, primarily occurs from birth to one year of life, a stage of development that is particularly sensitive to dietary and environmental compounds. This has led investigators to study the potential hormonal effects of soy isoflavones on later reproductive health outcomes. Such studies have included minimal human data with the large majority of studies using animal models. This review discusses key aspects of the current human and animal studies and identifies critical areas to be investigated as there is no clear consensus in this research field.


isoflavones; infants; reproductive health; rodent models; soy

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