|Your health in your hands||
|Phytoestrogens||Main Types of Phytoestrogen|
|How Do Phytoestrogen Work?||Managing the menopause with Phytoestrogen|
|Key symptoms||Cancer Prevention, Diet and Phytoestrogen|
|Phytochemicals – Guardians of our health||The Cholesterol Factor|
|Pyhtoestrogens and Osteoporosis||Oestrogen and Xenoestrogens|
|What is Genetically modified Soya?||A Phytoestrogens rich diet|
The phytoestrogen story may well prove to be the most significant breakthrough in human health since the discovery of vitamins and minerals. To date there have been in the region of 7,000 published medical papers exploring the powers of phytoestrogens, many of which reported exceedingly encouraging findings. Despite this, phytoestrogens are little known outside medical and nutritional research circles. The vast majority of doctors completely underestimate the impact that dietary factors can have on our health. It would be difficult for you not to be impressed by the wealth of the published medical studies carried out by conventional researchers around the world, and by the real life case histories explaining the beneficial effects of phytoestrogens and how they have improved their health.
On the downside, too much oestrogen can increase the risk of hormone-dependant cancers, in particular breast cancer and womb cancer. Women who take hormone replacement therapy (HRT) for prolonged periods are at an increased risk of these diseases.
Phytoestrogen are Mother Nature’s gift allowing us to top
up on naturally occurring oestrogens on a daily basis. The reason researchers are so interested in phytoestrogen is
that they appear to boost the ‘good’ effects of oestrogen whilst minimising
the ‘bad’ ones.
Phytoestrogens are a family of
naturally occurring substances with a chemical structure very similar to our own
female hormone oestrogen. Oestrogen
(which is also present in small amounts in men) has many positive effects,
How can phytoestrogens both increase and reduce the influence on oestrogen? The effect is in almost certainly due to their ability to bind to oestrogen receptors in tissues such as the breast.
When oestrogen is in oversupply, phytoestrogens play
‘musical chairs’ with the hormone in competition for these receptors.
Some of the phytoestrogens will inevitably displace oestrogen, and
because they are many times weaker in their effect, they reduce the cancer
promoting effects of the hormone. Phytoestrogens
also dilute the effects of the environmental oestrogens (xenoestrogens), which
can be even more harmful to the body than normal oestrogen.
On the other hand, if you are producing too little oestrogen (for
example, at menopause), phytoestrogens can give levels a natural boost, helping
combat symptoms such as hot flushes and osteoporosis.
The power of
A wealth of research in recent
years as demonstrated that a phytoestrogen rich diet, as consumed in Asia,
Southern France and the Mediterranean can perform what may easily be termed
‘medical miracles’. It has been
main types of Phytoestrogens
Lignans are found mainly in wheat bean and linseeds (flaxseed).
They are converted by bacteria in the gut into a number of hormone like
compounds which are believed to lower the risk of certain cancers, particularly
breast cancer. When linseeds are
consumed, intestinal bacteria action results in the production of up to 800
times more of these lignans than from any other food
Isoflavones are found mainly in legumes and pulses and are the most well
known for their effects on oestrogen metabolism and female health.
Different foods contain differing amounts and types of isoflavones, but
overall, the richest sources are Soya beans (including tofu, and Soya milk),
chickpeas, lentils and mung beans. Red
clover largely taken as a supplement rather than eaten as a food, contain all
four major isoflavones.
Genistein is the most extensively studied isoflavone to date. It was identified as a plant oestrogen in 1966, but it took over 20 years for it’s anti-cancer properties to be recognised by medical scientists. Japanese researchers were the first to discover the genistein, found in soy and many pulses, can block the signal that triggers the growth of a cancer cell. It acts as an anti-oestrogen in a similar way to the drug Tamoxifen administered for breast cancer and it would appear without the side effects.
Daidzein was the second major isoflavone to be discovered.
Like genistein it is found predominately in pulses and acts as an
anti-cancer agent. In laboratory
studies, it is able to cause cancer cells to revert to their normal healthy
state. Daidzein is also
particularly involved in bone health, and may slow oestrogen levels.
Biochanin and Formononetin are the more recently discovered isoflavones.
Unlike the earlier two, they aren’t found in Soya, but they do occur in
good amounts in red clover, chickpeas, lentils and mung beans. Although they are closely chemically related to genistien and
diadzein, biochanin and formononetin have their own unique effects.
As well as acting as cancer protective compounds they are known to help
lower blood fats.
It seems that they mimic oestrogen’s role in the body and
are able to compete against oestrogen within the harmful environmental
oestrogens (xenoestrogens) for the receptor sites at the entrance to the cells.
So, for example, genistein, the look-alike oestrogen, is able
successfully to take up occupation in the breast tissue, thus preventing the
more potent natural oestrogen, produced by the body, from ‘converting’
normal cells into cancer cells. Because
genistein is able to block the uptake of oestrogen it acts as an ‘anti-oestrogen’,
in a similar way to the drug Tamoxifen administered to the breast cancer
victims, and it would appear, without the side effects.
Phytoestrogens are found in many common plant foods:
Soya products, particularly soya milk, tofu and soya flour. The Soya bean, which is known in China as ‘ta-tou’ meaning the ‘greater bean’ is referred to in America as ‘the miracle bean’, and has been shown to be at least an equivalent to source of protein to animal products. They are also a good source of fibre and important nutrients including B vitamins, the minerals calcium, iron and zinc. Soya is one of the few plants that contain omega 3 essential fatty acids, which predominate in marine fish oils, and are thought to be useful in the prevention of heart disease and cancer.
Linseeds (sometimes known as flaxseeds) are rich source of omega-3 fatty acids, which are predominantly derived from oily fish. These fats are essential for a healthy nervous system, soft skin, bright eyes, strong immune system, the health benefits are immense. Fresh organic golden linseeds, Linusit Gold which are much nicer than the brown seeds that are available, can be combined with breakfast cereal each day. Two tablespoons of seeds, either whole or preferably ground, should be sprinkled over the cereal or used in muesli as an ingredient. Linusit Gold can be ground either in a coffee grinder or a blender, or simply with a pestle and mortar, and then stored in a sealed container in the refrigerator. They can also be sprinkled over salads, bakes, combined with yoghurt and milk and even included when baking fresh bread. It is important to consume plenty of liquid with linseeds, so if you are not combining them with milk, juice or yoghurt have a drink afterwards.
Other beans, greens and yellow vegetables to some extent and the plant red clover
Phytoestrogens are similar in
structure to the female hormone oestrogen, but they are only a fraction as
potent. Despite this research shows
that in high concentration, typical of the Asian diet, they protect us against
hormonally related cancers, having the ability to block the uptake of excess
oestrogen by the body, but the supplement low oestrogen levels in the body.
For at least three-quarters of the women in the Western world, the menopause brings with rapid changes and unwanted symptoms, often disrupting life and causing utter misery. Frequent hot flushes during the day, and sweats at night, resulting in exhaustion, disorientation and despondency.
The menopause is a transition, which signals the end of a
woman’s monthly fertility cycle, and in order to have a smooth passage through
it, our bodies need to be in really good shape.
In 1990 a study published in the British Medical Journal, conducted by a group of Australian workers, showed that women going through the menopause, regularly consuming foods and drinks that contained naturally occurring oestrogens, including soya, linseeds and red clover, were able to bring about the same positive changes in the lining of the vagina, as women taking HRT.
In 1992 a validation of how effective phytoestrogens are at
the time of the menopause was published in The Lancet.
The study concluded that Japanese women do not seem to experience hot
flushes and other menopausal symptoms because the Japanese diet contains foods
rich in plant oestrogens.
The most recent audit of Women’s Nutritional Advisory Service(WNAS) patients showed that within 4 months of the following programme:
Did you know?
From a survey conducted by WNAS,
of 500 women who had recently gone through their menopause, it was discovered
that there were three main groups of symptoms that occur at the menopause.
Oestrogen Withdrawal Symptoms:
· Hot flushes
|Aches and pains|
· Night sweats
|Irritable bowel syndrome|
· Vaginal dryness
· Loss of libido
· Urinary symptoms
Migraines and headaches
· Skin changes
· Difficulties with intercourse
Depression and confusion
Preventions and phytoestrogen.
Cancer is one of the commonest diseases of our time, and probably the most feared illness. Rightly so, for according to a World Health Organisation study on populations of some fifty countries, the incidence of hormone-associated cancer is so much higher in industrialised western societies when compared to the Asian populations. For example, depending in which Western country you reside in, your chances of dying form breast of prostate cancer are between ten to twenty times greater than those consuming a typically Asian diet, whilst living in countries like Japan, China or Thailand. More than one in four people will have cancer during their lifetime. After heart disease, cancer is the most common cause of death in Western countries, and is on the increase because of the ever-expanding population.
One study published in the Lancet in 1997, measured the levels of phytoestrogen in the urine – an indicator of the amount in the diet - in women with newly diagnosed early breast cancer, and healthy control subjects. The results found that the women with breast cancer had generally lower levels of phytoestrogen than healthy women. The are many ways to lower the chances of illness and it is possible with a Master in Public Health to help those around you live a healthier life.
– Guardians of our health
Fruit and vegetable consumption
has also been linked to the reduction of breast cancer.
A study of 2,400 Greek women noted that women with the highest intake of vegetables, four to five servings daily, had a 46% lower risk of breast cancer compared with women who had the lowest intake, fewer than two servings per day.
Coronary heart disease is now the most common cause of death in women in Western societies, with heart attacks claiming more than three times more lives than breast cancer, and stokes, more than twice as many. It actually accounts for 21% of deaths for women over the age of 45 in the UK. Women are protected from heart disease by oestrogen, prior to the menopause. Once they are no longer protected by oestrogen, the incidence of heart disease escalates post-menopause.
When we enter the world, our arteries are clear and
flexible, designed to contract and expand in order to accommodate blood flow.
As time progresses, if we mistreat our body, the arteries begin to narrow
due to the development of “plaque”. This
is made up of fatty deposits of cholesterol and fibrous tissue, the internal
diameter of the blood vessels reduces. The
process of arterial narrowing and hardening is called atherosclerosis.
When plaque deposits have caused the arteries to narrow, the heart has to
work harder to pump the blood around the body.
When arteries supplying the heart itself become completely blocked, the
muscle in portion of the heart that is denied both of oxygen and nutrients will
die, and the result is a heart attack. Whilst
those living in the Western world are falling like flies, the majority of Asian
communities generally reach old age with healthy blood vessels.
The power of
It was discovered that Soya protein lowers cholesterol
levels almost by accident. Studies
showed that Soya protein lowered cholesterol levels by an average of 14% within
2 weeks, and by 21% at the end of the 3 weeks.
More and more research has been undertaken to look at the effects of Soya
on cholesterol levels. An analysis of forty published studies was undertaken by Dr
Kenneth Carrol at the University of Western Ontario. His conclusion was that thirty-four of the studies he did
produced a drop in LDL cholesterol levels in particularly, by 15% or more.
Other more recent studies have shown that as well as reducing the level
of LDL, Soya has been successful in raising the levels of HDL.
Researchers at Sydney University have reported that isoflavone
supplementation is a promising alternative to HRT for reducing cardiovascular
risk in postmenopausal women. Their
study involving 21 menopausal women, showed that 5 weeks of treatment with 40mg
isoflavone tablet (containing a mixture of four major isoflavones derived from
red clover) achieved a highly significant reduction in hardening the arteries,
to levels typically found in a 30 year old woman.
Even genetically raised cholesterol levels have been seen to drop by 26%
in a four week Italian study, published in 1991. The Italians are so convinced about the value of Soya in
lowering cholesterol that it is now provided free of charge by the Italian
National Health Service to those with high cholesterol levels.
The Cholesterol Factor
Cholesterol is needed by our bodies for the manufacture of vitamin D and sex hormones, as well as a number of other important functions. It is produced by the liver and also found in animal foods, but the most usual cause of excess levels in the bloodstream is a diet high in saturated fats.
Because of its fatty nature, cholesterol doesn’t mix well
with blood, so it binds with protein in a combination known as a lipoprotein.
There are two lipoproteins; high density lipoprotein (HDL) and
low-density lipoprotein (LDL).
HDL and LDL – The Good
and The Bad!
Soya reduces the LDL cholesterol, and actually raises the levels of HDL.
High levels of LDL (bad cholesterol) are well known to be associated with heart disease as LDL transports cholesterol to the arteries where it can collect and cause damage.
By comparison, HDL (good cholesterol) is beneficial because it transports cholesterol away from arteries, taking it to the liver for removal from the body.
and the prevention of Osteoporosis
Osteoporosis means ‘porous bones’, and is literally a condition that results in the thinning of the bones. It has become an epidemic in the Western world, with an estimated 5 million sufferers in the UK alone. Every three minutes someone in the UK sustains a fracture due to osteoporosis. Hip fractures claim more lives than cancer of the ovaries, cervix and uterus put together.
Japanese women have half the hip fracture rate of the women in the West, and the women in countries like Hong Kong and Singapore suffer even fewer fractures. One explanation could be that Asian women are more active. Japanese women, who traditionally sit on the floor, will probably have stronger muscles and bones as a result of their regular movement, compared to a woman leading a sedentary lifestyle. But there is more to it than that, as new research is beginning to unveil.
some interesting facts:
all Oestrogen in good for us!
Unlike phytoestrogens, environmental oestrogens known as xenoestrogens, ‘xeno’, being Greek for foreign, are far from beneficial to our health. Horror story reports about xenoestrogens have been widespread in the media in the last few years, telling tales of reduced sperm counts in the men and infertility, and even increased rates of oestrogen-related cancers. Some 37 chemicals have been identified as being able to mimic oestrogen in the body and although they are weaker than natural oestrogen, they are thought to interfere with the systems that regulate the production of oestrogen and sex hormone function.
relationship between Breast Cancer and Xenoestrogens
Many scientists now believe that repeated exposure to xenoestrogens is related to the increase of breast tumours in women, and this is borne out by many studies including an Israeli study. In Israel, breast cancer fell sharply between 1976 and 1986. The dramatic fall in death from breast cancer was due to a ban in 1978 on the use of 3 organochlorine pesticides. Until 1978 milk had been contaminated with pesticides at rates of between 100 and 1,000 times greater than levels found in the USA!!
Sources of Xenoestrogens
How Xenoestrogens differ
The chemical structure of environmental oestrogens is strikingly different from both oestrogen found in the body and oestrogen found in plants.
Phytoestrogens are transported through the bloodstream where they hunt out compatible receptor site and bring about positive hormonal changes.
with the receptor sites within a cell, but they block normal hormone activity.
is Genetically modified Soya?
When Soya is modified to make it resistant to all-purpose
weedkiller herbicide, there is a risk that the plant could contain higher levels
of residues, which, in turn, could worsen allergies in some and cause skin
problems in others. Whilst the
Mansanto Roundup Soya bean has been declared safe to eat by American and
European regulatory bodies, concerned nutritionists argue that food gene
technology is still so new that the long-term risks are not quantifiable.
The WNAS advise patients to avoid genetically modified Soya products and
with this in mind, conducted a survey of British manufacturers (a letter was
sent to the major food companies, requesting their assurance that they do not
use or support the use of GMOs) for the “Phyto Factor” to determine which
foods are free from modification. However,
since conducting the survey, legislation has changed, and continues to change. Consumer pressure has prompted food manufacturers to review
their existing policies on genetic engineering for the better, and the WNAS will
endeavour to update their survey when appropriate.
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