CHAMPAIGN, Ill. An ongoing research initiative into the health effects of botanical estrogens will get an $8 million boost from the National Institutes of Health.
The Botanical Research Center, based at the University of Illinois, will address the many unknowns associated with use of botanical estrogens. These plants and plant-based compounds are often marketed as aids to prevent cancer, promote healthy aging or relieve menopausal symptoms. Researchers from Illinois, the University of Mississippi, Oregon State University and the FDA's National Center for Toxicological Research will contribute to the five-year effort.
This is the second $8 million grant from the NIH to Illinois to conduct research into the health effects of botanical estrogens. The first five-year initiative focused on soy isoflavones, compounds found in soybean that previous studies indicated had potential as anti-cancer and cholesterol-lowering agents. That grant yielded studies that showed that the positive or negative health consequences of exposure to soy isoflavones depend on the timing of the exposure (whether it occurs in early, mid, or late life), tissue type (breast or brain, for example), and dose.
Many women take plant-based estrogens (also called phytoestrogens) that are advertised as natural and, they presume, safer alternatives to hormone-replacement therapy.
Foods, supplements and extracts made from soy, licorice root, wild yam and dong quai, for example, are believed to reduce the occurrence of hot flashes, improve sex drive, lower the incidence or prevent the recurrence of breast cancer, enhance mental function or treat other health problems.
Today, phytoestrogens are added to teas and energy drinks, used as food additives and marketed as nutritional supplements. The estrogenic components of the plants such as the isoflavone genistein in soy are often extracted and used in highly concentrated form.
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|Contact: Diana Yates|
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign