Improve menopausal health with soy isoflavones

By: Nutrition expert- Vidula Kozarekar, Mumbai

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The Indian Menopausal Society has projected that by the year 2025, there will be 103 million menopausal women in India (1). Hormonal fluctuations are characterized by vasomotor symptoms, sleep disturbances, reduced fertility, irregular menstrual cycles, vaginal dryness and changes in skeletal and cardiovascular system (2).

You have reached menopause only after it has been a full year since your last period. This means you have not had any bleeding, including spotting, for 12 months in a row. After menopause your ovaries make very low levels of the hormones estrogen and progesterone. These low hormone levels can raise your risk for certain health problems (3).

Although, Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) is considered the most effective mode of treatment for these symptoms, its use is associated with increased risk of breast cancer, endometrial cancer and thromboembolic events. Soy isoflavones are being widely used as a safer alternative to HRT.

Side effects of HRT (4):

  • Trans dermal estradiol alone increased the risk of breast cancer by 10%.
  • Stroke incidence increased in both groups of the Woman’s Health Initiative (WHI) trial; by 31% in the Conjugated Equine Estrogen/Medroxy-Progesterone Acetate (CEE/MPA) group and 39% in the Conjugated Equine Estrogen (CEE) group.
  • Adverse effects like; Abnormal uterine bleeding, Fluid retention, Breast tenderness, Headaches and Mood changes were seen.

In view of this, large numbers of Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) therapies are being extensively used for the management of menopause related problems (5, 6, and 7). Majority of these therapies are based on soy isoflavones.

Efficacy of Soy Isoflavones in Menopausal symptoms:

AshrafM. Kansouh and Abd ELatif M. Elbalshy found in a study that; One year Soybeans supplementation has a significant decrease in the number of hot flashes and night sweats while displaying very good long-term tolerance and has no significant effect on EC risk in Postmenopausal women (8).

In a literature review, Lujin Li et al found that; Soy isoflavones show slight and slow effects in attenuating menopausal hot flashes compared with estradiol (9).

Eliana A.P. et al found in a study that; soy isoflavones was significantly superior to placebo, in reducing hot flush severity (69.9% and 33.7%, respectively) and exerted good compliance, providing a safe and effective alternative therapy for postmenopausal women (10).

M. S. Kurzer found in his literature review that; consumption of 30 mg/day of soy isoflavones (or at least 15 mg genistein) reduces hot flashes by up to 50 %. The greatest benefit may be realized when the isoflavones-rich food or supplement is taken in divided doses by subjects who experience at least four hot flashes per day (11).

The endothelium is a thin membrane that lines the inside of the heart and blood vessels. Endothelial cells release substances that control vascular relaxation and contraction as well as enzymes that control blood clotting, immune function and platelet (a colorless substance in the blood) adhesion. Colacurci et al found in their study; a positive influence of soy isoflavones on endothelial function in healthy postmenopausal women as evidenced by an improvement in endothelium-dependent vasodilatation and a reduction in plasma adhesion molecule levels (12).

What are some good sources of soy?

If you’re interested in exploring soy’s potential health benefits, consider adding some of these foods to your diet:

Edamame, soy flour, miso soup tempeh, tofu, soy milk and soy yogurt


You can also take soy isoflavones in supplement form. The North American Menopause Society recommends starting at a dose of 50 milligrams a day. You may need to increase the dose to have benefit. Keep in mind that it could be several weeks to months before you start to notice any change in your menopause symptoms.



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