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Are dietary supplements with isoflavones or phytoestrogens bad for your health?

  1. Some women take dietary supplements containing isoflavones or phytoestrogens, because they are said to help against menopausal symptoms. There is not enough evidence that these supplements actually help. However, supplements with high doses can be harmful to health. They can also cause side effects such as vaginal bleeding and liver inflammation. It is therefore preferable not to use these supplements, or only in consultation with your doctor or pharmacist.

What are isoflavones or phytoestrogens?

  1. Isoflavones (also called phytoestrogens) belong to the flavonoids (antioxidants). They are naturally present in certain plant foods, such as soy. Isoflavones have a hormonal (estrogenic) effect. Food flavonoids are not harmful to health. But if you consume high doses, for example through supplements, they could possibly be harmful.

Side effects of dietary supplements with phytoestrogens

  1. The Adverse Reaction Center Lareb, the Dutch reporting and knowledge center for side effects of medicines, received reports in 2019 of side effects of dietary supplements containing phytoestrogens from hops, soy, black cohosh, red clover, angelica , monk's pepper and kudzu. These included side effects such as vaginal bleeding after the menopause or liver inflammation.

Potential health effects

  1. Supplements with high doses of isoflavones could possibly lead to an increased risk of breast cancer. However, it is not yet clear how great the risk of this really is. This requires more research. The use of these supplements is therefore not recommended.

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