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Pure Appl. Chem., Vol. 70, No. 9, pp. 1759-1776, 1998

    Natural and anthropogenic environmental oestrogens:
    the scientific basis for risk assessment

    Naturally occuring oestrogens in food

    W. Mazur and H. Adlercreutz*
    Department of Clinical Chemistry, and Folkholsan Research Center, University of Helsinki, P.O. Box 60, FIN-00014 Helsinki, Finland.
    E-mail: [email protected]

    Abstract: Edible plants contain a number of natural compounds which mimic the biological effects of oestrogens by virtue of their ability to bind to and activate the nuclear oestrogen receptors. These hormone-like diphenolic phyto-oestrogens of dietary origin include isoflavonoids, coumestans and lignans. Our interest in these phyto-oestrogens derives from the results of epidemiological studies on diet and Western diseases including hormone-dependent cancers as well as coronary heart disease. Incidences of the diseases in question are lower in peoples of Asia compared to inhabitants of industrialized American and European countries. Using isotope dilution gas chromatography-mass spectrometry method we have identified and measured in foods the precursors of the biologically active compounds detected in plasma of subjects living in areas with low cancer incidence. Biochanin A, formononetin, daidzein, genistein, and coumestrol, and the lignans matairesinol and secoisolariciresinol have been found to possess oestrogenic, antioestrogenic, antioxidative, antiviral, antibacterial, insecticidal or fungistatic properties and they have been shown to be antiproliferative in relation to many types of tumors in cell culture. We report quantitative results for these plant oestrogens measured in soybeans and other legumes, oilseeds and nuts, grain and cereals, berries and fruits, cruciferous, allium and other vegetables, and beverages such as tea and coffee.

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