The study examined how soy isoflavones -- naturally occurring plant-based oestrogens found in the soybean plant -- could benefit women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) -- a hormonal disorder causing enlarged ovaries with small cysts on the outer edges and a major cause of infertilty. Women who have PCOS face a higher risk of developing other health problems, including diabetes and coronary heart disease. "The study indicates that consuming soy isoflavone regularly may help women with PCOS improve their metabolic and cardiovascular health," said lead author Zatollah Asemi from University of Kashan in Iran.
The findings showed that women who consumed soy isoflavones regularly saw improvement in biological markers that reflect how effectively the body utilises insulin to process sugar.
Soy isoflavones lowered the levels of circulating insulin in the blood and other biological markers associated with insulin resistance - a condition where the body does not use insulin to process sugars effectively and that can lead to Type 2 diabetes. Further, eating soy rich foods also reduced the levels of testosterone, harmful cholesterol known as Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and triglycerides, or fats in the blood, than their counterparts who received the placebo.
PCOS - one of the most common hormone disorders in women of reproductive age -- occurs when a woman's body produces slightly higher amounts of testosterone and other androgen hormones -- sex hormones typically associated with men, but also found in women -- than normal levels. The resulting hormone imbalance can cause irregular or absent menstrual periods, infertility, weight gain, acne, excess hair on the face and body, or thinning hair on the scalp.
For the study, published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, the team included 70 women who were between the ages of 18 and 40.
Half of the women were randomly assigned to take a daily 50 mg/d soy isoflavone supplement for 12 weeks and the other half received a placebo.