The protective properties of phytoestrogens

Phytoestrogens are molecules of plant origin that are very similar to estrogen, the female hormones. Intervening in hormonal regulation, phytohormones reduce the risk of certain hormone-dependent cancers, in particular breast and uterine cancers. They would also reduce the harmful effects of menopause: hot flashes…

We know that the abundance of estrogens (natural or chemical) in Western women is one of the main causes of the breast cancer epidemic. This is also why hormone replacement therapy is only prescribed with great caution to postmenopausal women. Very similar to female estrogen, phytoestrogens can significantly reduce the overstimulation of the body by estrogen and therefore inhibit the growth of estrogen-positive tumors.

Where to find phytoestrogens

The two major classes of phytoestrogenic compounds that have received the most attention from researchers are isoflavones and lignans. Phytoestrogens are found in flax seeds or soybeans (isoflavones). Several studies have suggested that the regular consumption of soy foods such as tofu, roasted beans, miso soup, sprouted seeds or even soy yogurts, considerably reduces the risk of breast cancer. But beware, this protective action against breast cancer has only been formally demonstrated for women who have consumed soy since adolescence. Moreover, it is only true when soy is consumed in reasonable nutritional doses. It is also known that soy isoflavones play an important role in other cancers such as prostate cancer, for example, which is why soy is an important food in an anti-cancer diet.

Soy and breast cancer

The consensus of the scientific literature on the subject suggests that there is no dangerous effect of soy on breast cancer (apart from certain experiments with high-dose dietary supplements). However, the French Food Safety Agency (AFSSA) recommends that women who have had breast cancer consume only moderate amounts of soy, i.e. no more than one soy yogurt or a glass of soy a day.

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Safety and benefits of phytoestrogens provided by food – Recommendations: French Food Safety Agency, 2005. Report No.: Request No. 2002-SA-231

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