Facts about Isoflavones

We’ve defined what organic compounds are but what are Isoflavones?

They occur naturally and are related to isoflavonoids. Isoflavonoids are members of a group referred to as flavonoid phenolic compounds. As byproducts of the pea family of plants, they’re considered to be biologically active compounds such as phytoestrogens.

Many act as phytoestrogens in mammals. Phytoestrogens are a group of chemicals found in plants which mimic the hormone estrogen. As a result, they can be termed antioxidants resulting from the capacity to trap singlet oxygen.

Research has show that soy isoflavones, in particular those species eating soy protein, have shown lower rates of breast cancer and other common cancers. The influence of sex hormone metabolism and biological activity through intracellular enzymes, protein synthesis, growth factor actions, malignant cell proliferations, differentation and angiogenesis have played a significant role in this process.

Isoflavones are most closely related to the bean family of the Fabaceae (i.e., Leguminosae, or bean) family.

Legumes, and especially soybeans, have been determined to be among the richest sources of



isoflavones in the human diet. In soybeans, isoflavones are present as glycosides (bound to a sugar molecule).

Fermentation or digestion of soybeans or soy products results in the release of the sugar molecule from the isoflavone glycoside, leaving an isoflavone aglycone. Soy isoflavone glycosides are called genistin, daidzin, and glycitin, while the aglycones are called genistein, daidzein, and glycitein (chemical structures of isoflavone aglycones).

The biological effects of soy isoflavones are strongly influenced by their metabolism, which is dependent on the activity of bacteria that colonize the human intestine (2). For example, the soy isoflavone daidzein may be metabolized in the intestine to equol, a metabolite that has greater estrogenic activity than daidzein, and to other metabolites that are less estrogenic.

Soybeans are the most common source of isoflavones in human food; the major isoflavones in soybean are genistein and daidzein