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Dietary genistein intake and cognitive performance in a multiethnic cohort of midlife women

Huang, Mei-Hua DrPH1; Luetters, Crystal MS1; Buckwalter, Galen J. PhD2; Seeman, Teresa E. PhD1; Gold, Ellen B. PhD3; Sternfeld, Barbara PhD4; Greendale, Gail A. MD1

doi: 10.1097/01.gme.0000227336.35620.8f

Objective: To examine the relationship between food frequency questionnaire estimated isoflavone intakes and cognitive performance.

Design: The Study of Women's Health Across the Nation (SWAN), is a multiethnic, community based, longitudinal study of women aged 42 to 52 years at entry. Dietary isoflavone intakes were estimated from an interviewer-administered food frequency questionnaire at baseline. Intakes of genistein and daidzein were highly correlated (r = 0.98); therefore, analyses were conducted using genistein only. The SWAN includes white, African American, Hispanic, Chinese, and Japanese women; this analysis was performed only in the latter two ethnic groups because the others had minimal genistein intake (median, <4 μg/day). Cognitive function tests were measured at the fourth annual follow-up visit using the East Boston Memory Test (Immediate and Delayed), Symbol Digit Modalities Test, and Digit Span Backward Test. Ethnicity-specific general linear models were used to examine the relationship between each of these cognitive tests and energy-adjusted genistein intake controlling for age, menopause stage, ever-use of any hormones, and current use of any hormones.

Results: Among 195 Japanese and women and 185 Chinese women, median intakes of genistein (μg/day) were 6,788 and 3,534, respectively. No associations between genistein intake and measures of cognitive performance were found in either ethnic group.

Conclusions: Our results did not support the hypothesis that genistein intake, at the levels consumed by the study sample, benefits cognitive performance. It also possible that the bioavailability of genistein in food sources is insufficient to exert a neurophysiological effect or that the potential effect of genistein is only manifest in low-estrogen states; the current study is not able to address these possibilities.

This observational study of Japanese and Chinese groups from the Studyof Women's Health Across the Nation whose diets were characteristically highin phytoestrogen-containing foods did not support a protective effect of dietarygenistein on cognitive performance.

From the 1Division of Geriatrics, Department of Medicine, University of California, Los Angeles, CA; 2, Pasadena, CA; 3Division of Epidemiology, Department of Public Health Sciences, University of California Davis, Davis, CA; and 4Division of Research, Kaiser Permanente, Oakland, CA.

Received June 2, 2005; revised and accepted November 30, 2005.

The Study of Women's Health Across the Nation (SWAN) has grant support from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), through the National Institute on Aging, the National Institute of Nursing Research, and the NIH Office of Research on Women's Health (Grants NR004061, AG012505, AG012535, AG012531, AG012539, AG012546, AG012553, AG012554, AG012495).

Address correspondence to: Mei-Hua Huang, DrPH, Division of Geriatrics, Department of Medicine, University of California, Los Angeles, 10945 Le Conte Avenue, Suite 2339, Los Angeles, CA 90095-1687. E-mail:

©2006The North American Menopause Society