Molecules. 2019 Oct 29;24(21). pii: E3892. doi: 10.3390/molecules24213892.
Plant-derived compounds have recently attracted greater interest in the field of new therapeutic agent development. These compounds have been widely screened for their pharmacological effects. Polyphenols, such as soy-derived isoflavones, also called phytoestrogens, have been extensively studied due to their ability to inhibit carcinogenesis. These compounds are chemically similar to 17β-estradiol, and mimic the binding of estrogens to its receptors, exerting estrogenic effects in target organs. Genistein is an isoflavone derived from soy-rich products and accounts for about 60% of total isoflavones found in soybeans. Genistein has been reported to exhibit several biological effects, such as anti-tumor activity (inhibition of cell proliferation, regulation of the cell cycle, induction of apoptosis), improvement of glucose metabolism, impairment of angiogenesis in both hormone-related and hormone-unrelated cancer cells, reduction of peri-menopausal and postmenopausal hot flashes, and modulation of antioxidant effects. Additionally, epidemiological and clinical studies have reported health benefits of genistein in many chronic diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and osteoporosis, and aid in the amelioration of typical menopausal symptoms, such as anxiety and depression. Although the biological effects are promising, certain limitations, such as low bioavailability, biological estrogenic activity, and effects on target organs, have limited the clinical applications of genistein to some extent. Moreover, studies report that modification of its molecular structure may eliminate the biological estrogenic activity and its effects on target organs. In this review, we summarize the potential benefits of genistein on menopause symptoms and menopause-related diseases like cardiovascular, osteoporosis, obesity, diabetes, anxiety, depression, and breast cancer.