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Soy Isoflavones

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Handbook of Dietary Phytochemicals
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Soy and its bioactive compounds, isoflavones, have become a hot issue in the last 20 years. Increased breeding of the plant has created a strong market in many countries. Nevertheless, the cross-consumption of foreign products is not safe for certain ethnic groups and requires risk assessment evaluation because of ethnic differences among populations that induce, for certain compounds, different end points in humans. For example, in Asians and white people, the intake of these compounds can have different bioactive effects. Chemically, isoflavones are isoflavonoids, a subgroup of polyphenolic compounds that have affinity for estrogen receptors and can act as endocrine disruptors in white people. Isoflavones from soy can also be found as constituents of astragalus roots, adzuki beans, chaste, green peas, chickpeas, lupins, kudzu, and red clover, among other plants. An extract named okara also contains isoflavones in variable concentrations and is a by-product of the production of soy preparations, such as tofu and soybean beverages. The main isoflavones isolated from soy are the malonyl glycosides of genistein, daidzein, and glycitein; these aglycones appear only in very low levels. All of these compounds undergo enterohepatic metabolism and are detoxicated by cytochrome P450 (CYP) 1A2 and 3A4, which imply an important potential to induce drug–herb interactions with concomitant intake. Recent research on bioactivity/toxicity of isoflavones has provided a perspective for potential health improvement, but sometimes these results are hard to compare in different ethnic groups. Correct evaluation of each extract in animal and clinical trials is the key to understanding the end points in order to assess safety. This chapter discusses, in detail, the future challenges for isoflavone-derived products, especially in the Western market.

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Maximum wavelength


Antinutritional factor


Compound ID




Cardiovascular disease


Cytochrome P450


Diode array detection


Diastolic blood pressure


European Food Safety Authority


Maximum effect


Estrogen receptor


EFSA Scientific Cooperation


European Society for Paediatric Gastroenterology Hepatology and Nutrition


Fatty liver syndrome


Follicle-stimulating hormone


γ-Aminobutyric acid


Global Health Observatory


Gonadotropin-releasing hormone


Hormone-dependent tumor


High-performance liquid chromatography


International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry


Medical Subject Heading


Molecular formula


Menopause Rating Scale


Molecular weight


National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine


National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health


National Plant Germplasm System




Retention time


Soy-based formula


Systolic blood pressure


Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results




Theoretical efficacy


Theoretical efficacy relative to estradiol


Thyroid-stimulating hormone


University of Campinas


Federal University of São Paulo


US Department of Agriculture


World Health Organization


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The author wishes to thank Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia (FCT), I.P., for its support (project no. UID/QUI/00313/2019).

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Campos, M.G. (2021). Soy Isoflavones. In: Xiao, J., Sarker, S.D., Asakawa, Y. (eds) Handbook of Dietary Phytochemicals. Springer, Singapore.

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