European Food Research and Technology

, Volume 209, Issue 3, pp 153–179

Occurrence of hormonally active compounds in food: a review

  • S. Fritsche
  • H. Steinhart

DOI: 10.1007/s002170050475

Cite this article as:
Fritsche, S. & Steinhart, H. Eur Food Res Technol (1999) 209: 153. doi:10.1007/s002170050475


 The present review gives an overview of the occurrence of hormones, hormone mimics, and hormone antagonists in food. The first part deals comprehensively with concentrations of the human sex steroid hormones progesterone, 17β-estradiol estrone, and testosterone in animal and vegetable food. The dietary intake of steroid hormones (10 μg/day progesterone, 0.1 μg/day estrogens, and 0.05 μg/day testosterone) is negligible compared to the human endogenous hormone synthesis. The second part addresses the phytoestrogens (isoflavones, coumestans, other bioflavonoids, lignans, phytosterols), which occur in food in much higher amounts than steroid hormones. Therefore, they can cause hormonal effects although their estrogen equivalents (relative to 17β-estradiol) are estimated to be 10–2–10–4. These effects can be beneficial or adverse, depending on the effectiveness and amount of the ingested hormone agonist, synergistic, and antagonistic effects with other dietary or endogenous hormones, interactions with other dietary compounds (e.g. fiber and fat intake), and the hormonal status of the individual. The review also summarizes the occurrence of steroid hormone precursors and of other growth-related hormones in food (corticosteroids, indole-3-carbinol, protein hormones). It ends with the presentation of residues and contaminants of fungal or anthropogenic origin (mycoestrogens, pesticides, plastic or food additives, industrial chemicals) which have also shown hormonal or hormone-blocking properties.

Key words Hormones Food Steroids Phytoestrogens 

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 1999

Authors and Affiliations

  • S. Fritsche
    • 1
  • H. Steinhart
    • 1
  1. 1.Institut für Biochemie und Lebensmittelchemie, Universität Hamburg, Grindelallee 117, D-20146 Hamburg, GermanyDE

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