Isoflavones: Chemistry, Analysis, Functions and Effects on Health and Cancer


Isoflavones are phytoestrogens and natural plant compounds which are similar to 17-β-estradiol in chemical structure. It is known that they can act as estrogen agonists or antagonists, depending on endocrine estrogenic levels, but actions of isoflavones are rather complex due to large number of variables such as chemical structures and mechanisms. Some hypotheses on biological mechanisms have not satisfactorily been confirmed to date and human epidemiological and experimental studies have been relatively limited. Nevertheless, isoflavones and isoflavone rich foods have become a focus onf interest due to positive health benefits on many diseases, especially prevention of hormone-related cancers, cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, and adverse postmenopausal symptoms, and improvement of physiological condition such as maintaining cognitive function. This review provides an overview of chemistry, analytical techniques (focused on human biospecimens), functions includingbiological mechanisms, and effects of isoflavones, on the basis of the available meta-analysis and review articles and some original articles, on health and cancer.