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World J Diabetes. 2015 Mar 15;6(2):271-83. doi: 10.4239/wjd.v6.i2.271.

Role of phytoestrogens in prevention and management of type 2 diabetes.

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Mohammad Talaei, An Pan, Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health, National University of Singapore, Singapore 117549, Singapore.


Type 2 diabetes (T2D) has become a major public health threat across the globe. It has been widely acknowledged that diet plays an important role in the development and management of T2D. Phytoestrogens are polyphenols that are structurally similar to endogenous estrogen and have weak estrogenic properties. Emerging evidence from pre-clinical models has suggested that phytoestrogens may have anti-diabetic function via both estrogen-dependent and estrogen-independent pathways. In the current review, we have summarized the evidence linking two major types of phytoestrogens, isoflavones and lignans, and T2D from epidemiological studies and clinical trials. The cross-sectional and prospective cohort studies have reported inconsistent results, which may due to the large variations in different populations and measurement errors in dietary intakes. Long-term intervention studies using isoflavone supplements have reported potential beneficial effects on glycemic parameters in postmenopausal women, while results from short-term small-size clinical trials are conflicting. Taken together, the current evidence from different study designs is complex and inconsistent. Although the widespread use of phytoestrogens could not be recommended yet, habitual consumption of phytoestrogens, particularly their intact food sources like soy and whole flaxseed, could be considered as a component of overall healthy dietary pattern for prevention and management of T2D.


Clinical trial; Epidemiological study; Isoflavone; Lignan; Phytoestrogen; Type 2 diabetes

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