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Issue # 66.6 - Menopause Research

The effects of phytoestrogen isoflavones on bone density in women

Phytoestrogens are oestrogenic compounds found in plants that consist of isoflavones. Isoflavones are known for their estrogenic activity, which play an important role in skeletal homeostasis and prevention of bone loss from occurring. Ovarian hormone deficiency is one of the most important risk factors of osteoporosis and since isoflavones are structurally similar to mammalian oestrogens they may have potential bone-sparing properties. A study was conducted on 177 women aged 49-65 to determine the effect of red clover-derived isoflavone supplement on bone density. The supplement contained biochanin A, formononetin, genistein and daidzein and was taken for a year. Results showed that the loss of the lower spine bone and bone mineral density was significantly lower in the women taking the isoflavone supplement than in those taking the placebo.

Am J Clin Nutr 2004; 79:326-33

Is hormone Replacement Therapy Necessary?

Menopause marks a transitional phase in a woman\'s life when menstruation ceases. This change of life is the result of declining ovarian function due to the ageing of the ovaries. Menopause can be accompanied by deficient or excessive functioning of the glandular and autonomic nervous systems, giving rise to nervousness, hot flushes, excitability or depression, dizziness, headaches, sweating and other symptoms. Such disturbances are severe when cessation of ovarian function is relatively rapid. If symptoms are severe, they may be eased by hormone replacement therapy (HRT), utilising a combination of oestrogen and progesterone. The obvious question is: \"Is hormone replacement therapy necessary?\" Phytoeostrogens are plant compounds that mimic the action of oestrogen and therefore may be useful during the menopause. Isoflavones are the most highly investigated subgroup of phytoestrogens found in soy, flaxseed, nuts, whole grains, apples, fennel, celery, parsley, and alfalfa, but the best source is from red clover. The reason is because some people who are allergic to soy would not be able to use soy isoflavones, whereas red clover isoflavones are hypoallergenic. Phytoestrogens offer significant advantages over the use of oestrogens in the treatment of menopausal symptoms. While both synthetic and natural oestrogens may pose significant health risks, including increased risk of cancer, gallbladder disease, strokes and heart attacks, phytoestrogens have not been associated with these side effects. A recent study investigated the effectiveness of a red clover isoflavone supplement on the change in hot flush frequency in postmenopausal women. Thirty women experiencing more than five flushes per day were enrolled. They all received placebo tablets for 4 weeks and were randomised to either placebo or 80mg red clover derived isoflavones for a further 12 weeks. The efficacy was measured by the decrease in number of hot flushes per day. The results showed a 44% reduction in the isoflavone group whereas there was no reduction in the placebo group. Therefore this study demonstrates the effectiveness of red clover derived isoflavones in the management of hot flushes.

Maturitas 2002 Jul 25;42(3):187



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