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Component in soy products causes reproductive problems in laboratory mice

Genistein, a major component of soy, was found to disrupt the development of the ovaries in newborn female mice that were given the product. This study adds to a growing body of literature demonstrating the potentially adverse consequences of genistein on the reproductive system.

"Although we are not entirely certain about how these animal studies on genistein translate to the human population, there is some reason to be cautious," said Dr. David A. Schwartz, Director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS). "More clinical studies are needed to determine how exposure during critical windows of development can impact human health."

Genistein is the primary naturally occurring estrogen in plants (called phytoestrogens) and can mimic the effects of estrogen in the body. Genistein can be found in foods containing soy such as soy-based infant formulas as well as over-the-counter dietary supplements.

The results of this study conducted by researchers at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), part of the National Institutes of Health, in collaboration with an investigator at Syracuse University, are published in the January issue of Biology of Reproduction.

The NIEHS researchers previously showed that mice given genistein immediately after birth had irregular menstrual cycles, problems with ovulation, and problems with fertility as they reached adulthood. The new study looks at the direct effects of genistein on the ovaries during early development.

"We knew genistein was linked to reproductive problems later in life, but we wanted to find out when the damage occurs," said Retha R. Newbold, MS, a developmental endocrinologist at NIEHS and an author on the study. "The study showed that genistein caused alterations to the ovaries during early development, which is partly responsible for the reproductive problems found in adult mice."

Female mice were injected with three
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Source:NIH/National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences


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