Sex and long-term soy diets affect the metabolism and excretion of soy isoflavones in humans

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Soybean consumption may be protective against hormone-dependent cancers, possibly in part because of the isoflavones daidzein and genistein, which are weakly estrogenic. This paper reviews our studies of the metabolism and disposition of these phytoestrogens in humans. During 1 mo of daily soy ingestion in a metabolic unit [1,065 L (36 oz) soymilk, providing 80-210 mg of each isoflavone daily], women initially excreted more isoflavone conjugates in urine than did men. Recoveries of conjugates of genistein, daidzein, and equol were 24%, 66%, and 28% of the amounts ingested in women, respectively, and 15%, 47%, and 15%, respectively, of those in men. A progressive decrease in urinary excretion of genistein and daidzein was observed in women but not in men during the study. At least 10% of ingested daidzin was excreted in urine as equol conjugate in one man and one woman after the first soy ingestion. Three more women but no more men developed the ability to produce and excrete large amounts of equol. Absorption rate constants (k(a)) of the isoflavones were estimated to be 0.24-0.50 h-1. The elimination rates (k(e)) for genistein, daidzein, and equol were 0.1, 0.16, and 0.08 h-1, respectively, in women and 0.19, 0.25, and 0.13 h-1, respectively, in men. Thus, the excretion half-life values of genistein were longer in women (7, 4, and 9 h, respectively) than in men (4, 3, and 5 h, respectively) after the first soy ingestion. The excretion half-life shortened progressively in women but lengthened progressively in men over the study period. Thus, isoflavone metabolism and disposition were affected by the duration of soy ingestion and by sex.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1500S-1504S
JournalAmerican Journal of Clinical Nutrition
Issue number6 SUPPL.
StatePublished - Dec 1998


  • Chemopr evention
  • Daidzein
  • Equol
  • Genistein
  • Hormone-dependent cancers
  • Humans
  • Isoflavones
  • Pharmacokinetics
  • Phytoestrogens
  • Soybeans

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


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