Effects of dietary phytoestrogens in postmenopausal women Academic Article uri icon


  • The aim of this study was to test the hypothesis that increased dietary intake of phytoestrogens reduces the health impact of the menopause. To test this hypothesis, a double-blind, randomized, entry-exit, cross-over study was conducted to assess the effects of three dietary manipulations--soy and linseed diets (high in phytoestrogens) and a wheat diet (low in phytoestrogens). Postmenopausal women were recruited and randomly assigned to one of the three dietary regimens. Urinary phytoestrogen concentrations, hot flush rate, vaginal smears, bone mineral density and bone mineral content were assessed for two 12-week periods. Comparative analysis showed no significant differences, but, when analyzed separately, groups consuming high phytoestrogen diets had between 10 and 30 times higher urinary excretion of phytoestrogens compared to those consuming the low phytoestrogen diet (p < 0.01). Study participants consuming soy, linseed and wheat diets had a 22% (not significant, n.s.), 41% (p < 0.009) and 51% (p < 0.001) reduction in hot flush rate; a 103% (p < 0.04), 5.5% (n.s.) and 11% (n.s.) increase in vaginal cytology maturation index; and a 5.2% (p < 0.04), 5.2% (n.s.) and 3.8% (n.s.) increase in bone mineral content, respectively. No changes were detected in bone mineral density. The differential effects of high phytoestrogen dietary manipulations on outcomes may represent tissue-specific responses to isoflavones and lignans contained in soy and linseed, respectively. Whilst health outcome measures were not significantly different between groups, the data obtained from separate analysis suggest that phytoestrogens in soy and linseed may be of use in ameliorating some of the symptoms of menopause. Furthermore, the significant decrease in hot flush rate in the wheat group cannot be attributable to phytoestrogens measured in this study. Due to subject variability, larger studies are still needed to evaluate population benefit.


  • Dalais, FS
  • Rice, GE
  • Wahlqvist, ML
  • Grehar, M
  • Murkies, AL
  • Medley, G
  • Ayton, R
  • Strauss, BJG

publication date

  • January 1998