Genistein is among the numerous isoflavones that have been identified by scientists thus far. In fact, isoflavones like genistein and daidzein are present in several plants, such as fava beans, lupin, soybeans, psoralea and kudzu as the main source of food. These isoflavones are also found in the medicinal plant Flemingia vestita as well as coffee. In addition to their role as antioxidant and anthelmintic (possessing the aptitude to eliminate worms), it has been proved that several isoflavones have interactions with the animal and human estrogen receptors resulting in consequences in the body like those attributable to the hormone estrogen. Besides, isoflavones also cause non-hormonal consequences.
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In 1899, genistein was isolated or set apart for the first time from the dyer's broom (Genista tinctoria). The chemical name genistein is, therefore, derived from the generic name Genista tinctoria. However, it took another quarter of a century to establish the compound nucleus in 1926 after genistein was found to be the same as prunetol. In 1928, scientists chemically synthesized the substance. As aforementioned, comparable to several other isoflavones, genistein functions like an antioxidant and helps in neutralizing the harmful effects of the free radicals in the tissues.
Very often the isoflavone daidzein is found together with genistein and collectively they are deemed soy isoflavones. Molecules of both daidzein and genistein have the aptitude to attach to the animal as well as human estrogen receptors. Owing to this particular attribute of daidzein and genistein, they are also known as phytoestrogens. The estrogen receptors in animals as well as humans encourage cellular activity when a particular compound is attached to them. Although genistein also binds to estrogen receptors and fuel their actions, they are not as effectual in the case of human estrogen as they are with animal estrogens. Hence, genistein is able to block the influence of estrogen partially. According to scientists, this attribute of genistein explains the protective effect caused by it against cancers involving hormones during their development. The best examples of such types of cancers include cancers of the prostate and breast.
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Glucoside genistein forms the primary source of genistein. In fact, it is essential that genistein is discharged from genistin before it can start its activities. Usually, genistein is released from genistin in the stomach by means of acid hydrolysis and in the intestine owing to the action of bacterial enzymes.
Compared to the West, consumption of soy is very high in the Asian regions and, according to a modest estimate, the consumption of soy in Asia is as much as 20 times more than in the West. In fact, soy products, counting milk, flour, tofu and soybeans itself, can be consumed quite easily. Several researches scrutinizing the diets of inhabitants of different regions and their rates of ailments have identified that the occurrence of prostate cancer in Japanese men is considerably low compared to men in America. Similarly, it has been found that the occurrence of breast cancer too is lower among women in Asia compared to women in the West. It is hypothetically said that such disparities are actually owing to the differences in the amount of soy consumed by people in different regions in their diets.
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Several laboratory studies have demonstrated that genistein inhibits the development of an assortment of cancer cells. In addition to its function as a phytoestrogen (a chemical substance occurring in plant and possessing estrogenic properties), genistein possesses a number of bio-chemical features that may have such influences on the cancer cells. The anti-cancer properties of genistein are imperative enough for it to be listed in the Drug Dictionary of the National Cancer Institute. Nevertheless, one needs to bear in mind that the timing when genistein is used to treat cancers is crucial because a number of researches have found genistein to amplify the spread of breast cancer cells. When cancer patients are treated with any compound that facilitates blocking estrogen, has the aptitude to improve this result.
Genistein is an isoflavone that also seems to have effects against loss of bone that takes place when menopause has set in and there is a decline in the estrogen levels in women. Such a condition may result in osteoporosis (a bone disorder wherein the bones become more and more porous, fragile and are subjected to fracture due to loss of calcium as well as other essential minerals) and weakens and incapacitates the body greatly. It may be mentioned here that while estrogen treatment used to be widespread to treat this health condition as well as help menopausal women prevent this problem, recent studies have demonstrated that hormonal replacement therapy (HRT) using estrogen causes hazardous side effects. On the contrary, using genistein to treat this health condition has been found to augment the density of bone in women who have taken the isoflavone as a dietary supplement.
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As mentioned earlier, the isoflavone genistein functions as a potent antioxidant. The antioxidant activity of genistein has the potential to shield DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) from the harms of oxidation as well as avoid mutations from taking place. In addition, genistein also has the aptitude to protect cholesterol from being oxidized, which, in turn, enhances the risk of a heart attack. According to a hypothesis, genistein is effective in protecting us from heart attacks.
All said and done, it is also a fact that patients taking this isoflavone as a dietary supplement are also likely to experience certain side effects. One of the major side effects experienced by people taking the isoflavone genistein is gastrointestinal problems. According to the findings of a few researches, use of genistein may also harm the immune system. However, unlike genistein, use of the other isoflavone daidzein is unlikely to cause any adverse after-effects. Hence, it is advisable that one ought to consume more and more of soy isoflavones, particularly soy, in order to obtain the maximum benefits of using isoflavones. In any case, eating lots of soy is much better than taking genistein as a dietary supplement.
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The isoflavone genistein offers several health benefits and performs numerous activities. Among other things, genistein works as an antioxidant, anti-cancer agent, a phytoestrogen and it may also assist people enduring metabolic syndrome (a permutation of medical problems that augment the risk of developing cardiovascular disease and diabetes).