Genistein is a type of isoflavone that belongs to the group of flavonoids. It is a hormone-like substance commonly occurring in soya beans. Isoflavones like genistein are known to have several health benefits. Just like many other known isoflavones, genistein acts as an antioxidant and counteracts the damage caused by free radicals to body cells and tissues.

Apart from functioning as antioxidant it is also known to interact with human and animal estrogen receptors. Genistein shares several structural similarities with estrogen. This enables it to create similar effects in the body as the hormone estrogen does. Genistein can act as a phytoestrogens, anti-cancer agents and greatly help people who have metabolic syndrome.

Genistein can prevent the growth of cancerous cells by depriving them of a certain type of protein known as tyrosine kinase. Cancer cells need this protein to flourish. By reducing the activity of tyrosine kinase, Genistein slows down the spread of cancer in the human body. Thus, genistein is believed to be useful in the prevention of cancer. Several studies have shown that people in Japan tend to be less likely to suffer from ovarian, breast and prostate cancer due to their high intake of soy which causes their diets to be rich in genistein. Cancerous cells are in need of the hormone estrogen to be able to grow. As an estrogen substitute, genistein binds itself to such cells and abates their growth rate. Genistein may also make certain cells in the body sensitive towards radio-therapy.

During menopause, women suffer certain conditions due to the declining levels of estrogen in the body. Osteoporosis and heart diseases are some of the complications that could arise out of low estrogen levels. Genistein’s ability to act as a phytoestrogen allows it to be useful in the treatment of such conditions for women. Genistein derived from soy also has the ability to lower ‘bad’ cholesterol (LDL) levels in the body which in turn prevents the clogging of arteries. Since only oxidized LDL (low density lipoproteins – the bad cholesterol) are absorbed by the cells in the arteries, the oxidation of LDL needs to be prevented to reduce the chances of arteriosclerosis. Antioxidants such as genistein are needed for that. It also aids the functioning of other antioxidant enzymes like superoxide dismutase, glutathione peroxidase and glutathione reductase.

Genistein influences the growth of cells that are not depended on hormones and reduces uncontrolled cell growth. Keratin is a type of protein in the skin that causes the abnormal growth of skin cells. By regulating the levels of this protein, genistein has proven itself helpful in the treatment of skin ailments such as psoriasis and skin cancer.

Genistein is important in the prevention as well as cure of diabetes. It is said to prevent insulin resistance in the body, which is one of the major causes of diabetes. It also regulates the level of blood sugar in the body.

Genistein can be included in the diet by regularly consuming soybeans or soybean products. Roasted soybeans, soy milk and flour, tofu are all great sources of Genistein. Several isoflavone supplements are also available that contain good amounts of Genistein.

While a recommended dosage of Genistein has not yet been worked out, many Japanese people are known to have an average intake of approximately 200 milligrams a day. Harmful side effects of genistein have not yet been discovered. However, it is thought to interfere with the effects of birth control pills.

People suffering from cancers that are estrogen related are advised not to consume isoflavones. Research indicates that such conditions may be aggravated by the intake of Genistein and other isoflavones.

Last updated on Jun 6th, 2010 and filed under Nutritional Information. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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