Phytoestrogen supplements are popular complementary medicines for the treatment of menopausal symptoms and for general wellbeing.
Phytoestrogens are present in many of the plants that have been used for centuries as foods and medicines. Interest in these compounds increased when epidemiological data from various countries and specific community groups with high phytoestrogen dietary intakes showed reduced incidences of menopausal symptoms, cardiovascular disease and some malignancies (such as breast cancer), compared with communities with low phytoestrogen diets. Supplements containing phytoestrogens derived from plants are now widely used by women in mid-life as a popular over-the-counter substitute for hormone therapy.
The daily intake of phytoestrogen-containing food required to protect against illness and to maintain health has not been quantified because of the complexity and variability within food sources and in their absorption and metabolism. It is believed that the whole food may provide greater beneficial health effects than extracts of phytoestrogens.