Weight effects of plant-estrogens may vary after menopause

August 3, 2018 in Menopause, Nutrition Topics in the News, Vitamins, Minerals, Supplements, Women's Health

Weight effects of plant-estrogens may vary after menopause

Plant-derived estrogens, such as those from soy and red clover, might contribute to unwanted weight gain in some postmenopausal women, according to a new review of previous clinical trials from the University Medical Center Rotterdam in the Netherlands

Known as phytoestrogens, these natural compounds mimic the effects of estrogen in the body. Women entering menopause have a sharp drop in estrogen levels that can lead to hot flashes, night sweats and other unpleasant symptoms. 

While hormone replacement therapy remains the most effective treatment for these symptoms, many women choose to take phytoestrogens instead. 

However, it remains unclear whether phytoestrogens help or hurt with regard to the weight gain and other body changes that typically accompany menopause. 

To investigate, the researchers reviewed 23 randomized controlled trials involving a total of 1,880 postmenopausal women. All the trials compared women assigned to take phytoestrogens or a placebo, who were at least four years past menopause, and who were consuming a regular diet, not seeking to lose weight. Trials took place in Asia, Europe and North and South America. 

Phytoestrogens may cause weight gain in some women

Overall, there were no associations between taking phytoestrogen supplements and weight gain or loss, or any other changes in measurements of body composition like waist-to-hip ratio. When they looked at certain subgroups of women, however, there were some slight but statistically meaningful differences. 

Among women who already had metabolic problems such as diabetes, high blood pressure or high cholesterol, those who took phytoestrogens ended up weighing about 0.8 kilograms, or 1.7 pounds, more than those on placebo. Healthy women on phytoestrogens weighed about 0.3 kilograms less, or 0.6 pounds, compared to those on placebo.

There is some evidence that supplements containing isoflavone mixtures could have minimal beneficial effect while daidzein-enriched isoflavones may lead to increased body weight. The researchers recommend that consumers look at the ingredient list of isoflavone formulations and choose those with the least daidzein. 


Current research on phytoestrogens and weight is of poor quality, and most trials the researchers analyzed had been published in 2013 or earlier. The formulation and quality of recent supplements may be different as compared to supplements that were used five or more years ago.” 

Source: Maturitas, online June 22, 2018.

All research on this web site is the property of Leslie Beck Nutrition Consulting Inc. and is protected by copyright. Keep in mind that research on these matters continues daily and is subject to change. The information presented is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. It is intended to provide ongoing support of your healthy lifestyle practices.