The onset of climacteric symptoms (hot flashes and night sweats) is the primary reason for perimenopausal women to start hormone therapy. The association of a lower incidence of postmenopausal symptoms with high intake of soybeans in Asian women suggests that phytoestrogens are an alternative to estrogen therapy. The main effective compounds in soybean are isoflavones, which have a higher binding affinity to estrogen receptor β than to estrogen receptor α. The aim of present study was to evaluate the effects of isoflavone treatment in postmenopausal women.
This was a double-blind prospective study. Sixty healthy postmenopausal women were randomly assigned by computer into two groups to receive 60 mg isoflavones or placebo daily for 3 months. Before and after treatment, climacteric symptoms were recorded; serum was collected to measure the levels of lipoprotein lipids, estradiol, and follicle-stimulating hormone; and biopsy specimens from endometrium and breast were analyzed to investigate the expression level of steroid receptors and proliferation. Endometrial thickness was measured by ultrasound.
Fifty-one women finished the 12-week study. In women receiving 60 mg isoflavones daily, hot flashes and night sweats were reduced by 57% and 43%, respectively. The treatment did not change the levels of circulating estradiol or follicle-stimulating hormone. Immunohistochemical staining of endometrial and breast biopsy specimens revealed that isoflavones did not affect expression levels of steroid receptors; estrogen receptors α, β, and βcx; progesterone receptors A and B; or the proliferation marker Ki67. No side effects on body weight or lipoprotein lipids were observed.
This short-term prospective study implies that isoflavones could be used to relieve acute menopausal symptoms.