As women age, and especially after women are done with menopause, bone density decreases. Phytoestrogens for bone health are being touted to help in preserving bone density in a way similar to how hormone replacement therapy can. Phytoestrogens have estrogen-like effects and are naturally occurring substances. Phytoestrogens are found in a variety of plants and are weak hormones.
Learning About Phytoestrogens
These compounds are present in several different plants, such as fruits, grains and herbs. There are three main types:
- Isoflavones are present in soy-based foods, other legumes and chickpeas.
- Lignans are present in cereal bran, tea, flaxseeds, whole-wheat flour and alcoholic beverages, such as bourbon and beer.
- Coumestans are present in clover and alfalfa.
Phytoestrogens have recently gotten much attention because hormone replacement therapy has been recently shown to increase the risk of heart disease, breast cancer and stroke. Using hormone replacement therapy to improve bone health involved the administration of estrogen to helping in relieving menopause complications, like osteoporosis. Due to it not being favorable, people have been seeking an alternative therapy to replace it and some believe that phytoestrogens may be it.
Are Phytoestrogens Effective?
While the initial results are promising, it is still not completely clear whether phytoestrogens for bone health are definitely effective. Some studies have shown an increase in bone mass and protection from bone loss in postmenopausal women. However, the majority of these studies show only a modest difference.
Are Phytoestrogens Right for You?
The best way to know is to talk to a doctor. However, many agree that consuming more soy products is a great way to try getting more phytoestrogens. Consuming more grains, such as bran, chickpeas and flaxseeds is another way to do this.
Supplements may be a way for some women to do this. There is very little research in this area, though, so this is not recommended without doctor approval. Phytoestrogen supplements often provide more than foods alone and they can be found at health food stores.
Adding other vitamins that are critical to bone health are important. This includes supplementing calcium and vitamin D during those postmenopausal years to preserve bone health. It is also important to have calcium and vitamin D levels checked by your doctor to make sure there is no deficiency present. This involves a simple blood test and if a calcium or vitamin D deficiency is found, prescription supplementation can often correct it.
Weed, S. (2002). Phytoestrogens – Friends or Foes? Retrieved on March 29, 2011 from the Feminist Women’s Health Center: https://www.fwhc.org/health/phytoestrogens.htm
Life Extension Foundation. (2011). Osteoporosis. Retrieved on March 29, 2011 from the Life Extension Foundation: https://www.lef.org/protocols/metabolic_health/osteoporosis_02.htm
NIH Osteoporosis and Related Bone Diseases National Resource Center. (2011). Osteoporosis. Retrieved on March 29, 2011 from the NIH Osteoporosis and Related Bone Diseases National Resource Center: https://www.niams.nih.gov/Health_Info/Bone/Osteoporosis/
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