The Antioxidants Section
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Genistein is an isoflavone, which is a hormone-like substance found in soybeans. Numerous studies have shown that genistein is both a phytoestrogen and antioxidant, and it is most often used to treat conditions affected by an estrogen levels in the body.
After numerous clinical studies, researchers in Finland concluded that people in Japan have lower rates of breast, ovarian, and prostate cancer because of the genistein contained in their diets, which are high in soy. Genistein binds itself in place of estrogen on receptors in cancerous cells that need this hormone to grow. Some studies have also shown that it helps regulate blood sugar and prevent the development of insulin resistance that can lead to diabetes and a host of disorders associated with this condition, including diabetic retinopathy.
Genistein has also been shown to help prevent the growth of cancer by depriving cancer cells of a protein called tyrosine protein kinase, which they need to flourish, and disrupting the action of certain enzymes that allow cancerous tumors to develop their own blood supply.
As a phytoestrogen, genistein mimics the effects of estrogen in the body, and may be a useful treatment for conditions caused or worsened by declining estrogen levels during menopause, including osteoporosis and increased risk of heart disease. Soy isoflavones have demonstrated an ability to lower low-density lipoprotein (LDL, or “bad”) cholesterol levels, and to help prevent plaque build-up in the arteries. It has also been suggested that soy isoflavones may be useful for treatment of Alzheimer’s disease by preventing a build-up of plaque in blood vessels in the brain.
Genstein may also be helpful for treating psoriasis, and skin cancer. It has been shown to reduce the production of keratin, a protein in the skin that has been linked to abnormal growth in skin cells.
You can get more genistein in your diet by eating foods made from soybeans or the soybeans themselves. Tofu, soy milk, soy flour, miso, and roasted soybeans are all good sources of isoflavones. There are also isoflavone supplements on the market containing significant amounts of genistein and daidzein, another anti-cancer phytoestrogen found in soy. You can also get a good amount of isoflavones from herbal kudzu supplements—kudzu contains soy isoflavones. People concerened with osteoporosis may want to try ipriflavone, a supplement containing a chemically altered form of soy isoflavones, which has been proven the most effective isoflavone supplement for preventing bone loss.
There is no recommended dosage for genistein, although the average daily intake of isoflavones in Japan is about 200 milligrams. There have been no toxic side effects associated with genistein, but because it is a phytoestrogen, there has been some concern that it could actually stimulate the growth of estrogen-stimulated cancers or interfere with the action of birth control pills.
Men and women that have been diagnosed with estrogen-related cancers should not consume isoflavones, as there is some research that suggests that genistein and daidzein may aggravate these conditions. In addition, in one study rats injected with genistein did have a higher risk of developing uterine cancer.
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