Phytoestrogens, Genistein – Natural Estrogen Replacement
Phytoestrogens, referred as natural or herbal hormones, are naturally occurring substances extracted from plants. The word “phytoestrogen” is derived from “phyto”, meaning plant, and “estrogen” as of their ability to affect estrogenic action in the human body.
Phytoestrogens are categorized into 4 main groups which are then more subdivided. The four groups of phytoestrogens are soy isoflavones, lignans, coumestans and resorcylic acid lactones. The most structurally similar to estrogen, are the soy isoflavones, which are now being known as a healthy supplement for menopausal and pre-menopausal women for their natural estrogen replacement abilities.
The main mechanisms of action of phytoestrogens, Genistein.
The main mechanism of action of phytoestrogens is associated with their ability to bind to estrogen receptors and simulate their numerous effects to balance their deficit during menopause. This not only softens menopausal problems, but also provided a reliable prevention of age-related diseases caused by estrogen deficiency, as we mentioned above.
Psycho-emotional disorders. In general, according to the results of clinical trials, the use of phytoestrogens helps to reduce the frequency of psycho-emotional and vascular disorders (hot flashes, mood swings, sleep disorders, etc.) by an average of 40-54%. It is difficult to argue with the fact that this figure is not comparable with the results of the use of synthetic hormones, efficiency reaches 80-95%, but given the many side effects of hormone therapy, which are described in detail above, the benefits of phytoestrogens, and especially their safety, are obvious.
Cardio-protective effect. As are estrogen, phytoestrogens exhibit pronounced cardio-protective effect associated primarily with their anti-atherosclerotic activity, such as the ability to reduce elevated cholesterol and increase the resistance of cells to the vascular damaging effect of Lipid peroxidation ( free radicals). Furthermore, by protecting blood vessels they help to prevent the development of hypertension. It is also important that phytoestrogens have a normalizing effect on the metabolism of carbohydrates and reduce elevated levels of glucose and insulin, which is today one of the most important factors leading to the disease not only diabetes but also cardiovascular disease. Phytoestrogens also helping to keep normal levels of homocysteine (increased levels of this amino acid derivative of methionine is a proven risk factor for cardiovascular disease, especially atherosclerosis, as well as age-related disorders of the central nervous system).
Prevention of osteoporosis. Partially compensating the estrogen deficiency, phytoestrogens can slow the loss of calcium and contribute to long-term prevention of osteoporosis. More recently, these findings were confirmed in Italy in a study conducted in three medical centers involving 389 postmenopausal women with symptoms of osteoporosis. Indicator of bone mineral density of the femoral neck was less than they had 0,795 g/cm2. Half of the women were administered in the diet at 54 mg of genistein daily for two years, and the rest – placebo. Both groups also received calcium supplements and vitamin D. All participants were determined indicators of bone mineral density of the femoral neck and lumbar vertebrae. The group does not accept phytoestrogens noted further decrease in bone mineral density – in the vertebrae and femoral neck at 0.053 and 0.037 g/cm2, respectively. In the group receiving phytoestrogens, this figure, in contrast, increased – by 0.049 and 0.035 g/cm2, respectively.
Anticarcinogenic and tumor preventing effect. Unlike synthetic estrogens, the use of which causes a significant increase in the risk of cancers of female genitalia, phytoestrogens, conversely, contribute to cancer prevention. This is due to the fact that phytoestrogens have high similarity to beta estrogen receptors (which are mainly concentrated in the bones, skin, cardiovascular and nervous systems), and in cells of the reproductive system and breast alpha receptors are present, for which no phytoestrogens not only act, but even partially block them. As a result of phytoestrogens decrease the risk of estrogen-tumors in the reproductive system.
These data are confirmed by many studies reflect the fact that a high intake of phytoestrogens (especially genistein) reduces the risk of female genital tumors. For example, in women with the highest level of genistein in the blood of breast cancer risk was one third lower than in women with the lowest.
Prevention of age-related skin changes. Estrogens play an important role in maintaining youthful and healthy skin. They regulate the synthesis of collagen and update the frame, protect collagen and elastin fibers from free radicals (in excess produced by the action of sunlight), preventing photoaging. Estrogens also regulate the synthesis of mucopolysaccharides and hyaluronic acid, responsible for regenerating and maintaining hydration of the skin. When the level of estrogen is low during menopause, these important for healthy skin function are impaired, which leads to its progressive aging.
Some studies about phytoestogens:
Study done by Department of Internal Medicine, University of Messina, Italy confirms the genistein-positive effects on bone loss already observed in the experimental models of osteoporosis and indicates that the phytoestrogen reduces bone resorption and increases bone formation in postmenopausal women.
Phytoestrogens have been suggested as cancer preventatives and as treatments for menopausal symptoms and osteoporosis (Adlercreutz and Mazur 1997; Messina et al. 2002).
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