Phytoestrogens were discovered in the 30s of the last century. But scientists recognize that these amazing substances still have many mysteries, and their impact on the human body may be the most unexpected.
Dedicated from plants, in their chemical structure, phytoestrogens resemble human hormones. Consequently, they have the potential to modify the mechanisms regulating the sexual cycle and the reproductive process in humans and animals.
Naturally, scientists immediately had an idea to use phytoestrogens as “substitutes” for hormonal drugs. Since they act much “softer” than synthetic estrogens and do not give so many side effects, it was logical to assume that they can be used to prevent and treat diseases requiring hormonal correction, for example, to alleviate menopausal symptoms in women, in anti- age medicine and even in oncology, as phytoestrogens suppress the growth of hormone-dependent tumors.
But before using these substances, it was necessary to check their safety and make sure that they are really effective.
The prospects that scientists opened with the advent of phytoestrogens were so wide that by the end of the 1960s many of the substances had already been obtained in a purified form, and numerous experiments on their effects on the human body began in scientific laboratories.
According to one version, phytoestrogens were given serious attention after a study that showed that in South-East Asia, mortality from cardiovascular diseases is significantly lower than in Europe and America, and eastern women are much less likely to suffer from traditional problems of “elegant age “than their light-cheeked European girlfriends. Men of these countries and can be called real macho at all – the concentration of spermatozoa in ejaculate they have not declined over the years, unlike Hollywood beauties.
In a detailed study, it was found that the traditional diet of Asians includes a large number of soy products that are the source of isoflavonoids, and this is nothing more than phytoestrogens.
In the future it was revealed that, in addition to beneficial effects on reproductive function, phytoestrogens also have an anti-cancer effect. First of all, they began to study the causes of breast cancer in women and the prostate gland in men. Scientists correlated data of epidemiological studies with diet and the level of consumption of products of plant or animal origin. It became clear that the so-called “Western diet” with a high content of animal protein is associated with a more frequent occurrence of tumor processes. For example, a study of the nature of nutrition in breast cancer patients in Boston and Finland found that, in contrast to healthy women, they almost did not eat whole-grain foods.
At the same time, the results of a study in the Houston oncological center, in which 3405 patients participated, showed that a sufficient intake of food containing phytoestrogens reduces the risk of cancer by 50% even among smokers.
The study of new substances from the point of view of their further application is carried out in the most different directions. In one experiment, for example, it was found that phytoestrogens improve the quality of life. The venerable ladies taking tablets containing these components significantly improved their cognitive abilities and mood compared to the control group of the same age group who took placebo.
But nature does not cease to present surprises to evolutionary researchers and to discover all the new features of these extraordinary substances.
We can not predict …
Phytoestrogens are found in soybeans and other legumes, lentils, flax, pomegranates, dates, sunflower seeds, sprouts, red clover, cereals, broccoli, red wine. They are in cherries and apples, parsley, garlic and carrots. It would seem that it is easier to isolate estrogen-like substances from them and use them for the production of therapeutic and prophylactic products. But it seems simple only at first glance.
The principal difference in the effects of human estrogen and phytoestrogens is that they can achieve the same effect as human estrogen only if their concentration in the body is 5000 times greater. Therefore, now special methods are being developed that allow to introduce phytoestrogens into products in the required quantity.
Since the days of Hippocrates and Avicenna, it has been known to use a number of plants and vegetables rich in phytoestrogens as contraceptives or, conversely, fertility stimulants.
Experiments conducted in our time have shown that the effectiveness and directivity of the action of phytoestrogens depends on a number of factors, for example, the state of the reproductive system at the time of drug administration, the level of its own estrogens in the body, the dose of the drug administered, . Depending on this, they can act as both agonists and antagonists of the body’s own estrogens, i.e. influence their action at the cellular level. Thus, in order to reliably represent the processes occurring in the body under the influence of certain phytoestrogens, a lot of full-scale research will still be required.
Nevertheless, many of these substances have already been sufficiently studied, and now a number of medications with a proven effect, enriched with phytoestrogens of food mixtures and supplements have been released to the pharmaceutical market. They are widely used for the primary prevention of cardiovascular diseases in women, in the treatment of osteoporosis, for the removal of climacteric syndrome. Oncologists report the successful use of certified herbal food mixtures for the treatment of breast and prostate tumors. And the popularity of these products increases from year to year. After all, in addition to therapeutic effect, phytoestrogens have a general beneficial effect, especially on the female body, and also slow the aging process of the skin.