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.

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.

Genistein and related health benefits

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).

Genistein and heart health
Several laboratory examinations have shown that the isoflavone genistein slows down the synthesis of cellular cholesterol as well as cholesterol esterification (converting cholesterol into an ester). In addition, genistein lowers the oxidation of fatty acid and puts forth lipid lessening effects. Consuming genistein as dietary supplements facilitates the absorption of only oxidized LDL cholesterol (low-density lipoproteins also known as the 'bad' cholesterol) by the arterial cells and avoiding this type of oxidation actually reduces the risk for arteriosclerosis (hardening or a degenerative change in the arteries). Besides, using the isoflavone genistein also helps to put off heart attacks and strokes since it prevents clotting of blood.
Estrogenic effect
The isoflavone genistein has estrogenic effects and several studies have established this attribute of the compound. Among the different isoflavones, genistein is known to posses the most potent estrogenic effect. In fact, the estrogenic activity of genistein explains the effectiveness of this isoflavone against the health condition like osteoporosis as well as its potential impact on the body to loose weight. In addition, the estrogenic effect of genistein is also useful in alleviating the menopausal symptoms, for instance, hot flashes.
Anti-cancer actions of genistein
The isoflavone genistein also looks like it can lower the hazards of a number of cancers related to hormones, especially prostate and breast cancers. Several epidemiological (stream of medical science related to the occurrence, spread, and control of endemic diseases) studies have demonstrated that ingestion of isoflavones may possibly protect us from prostate and breast cancers. As mentioned before, consumption of soy products in large amounts by people in the Asian countries, especially Japan and China are related to lower occurrence of these forms of cancer in these places. In fact, there are numerous theories that elucidate the anti-cancer properties of genistein. Some of these theories include slowing down of angiogenesis (generation of blood-vessel growth, frequently related to a specific organ or tissue, or a tumour), inhibiting tyrosine kinases (an enzyme that exercises regulatory consequences on growth and malignant alteration by phosphorylating proteins), antioxidant attributes as well as anti-estrogen activities. In effect, findings of several researches have already established that use of estrogens actually augment the hazards of some specific types of cancers. As aforementioned, the isoflavone genistein attaches with estrogen receptors, thereby putting off the estrogen from binding as well as setting off the growth of cancer cells.
Genistein as an antioxidant
As discussed earlier in this article, the isoflavone genistein is a potent antioxidant. It has been proved that this compound eliminates the harmful free radicals and lowers the lipid peroxidation (a sort of chemical reaction wherein oxygen atoms are formed resulting in the production of peroxides). It is also known that genistein augments the activity of other enzymes that possess antioxidant properties, for instance, glutathione peroxidase, glutathione reductase and superoxide dismutase. Several researches have demonstrated that genistein also possesses the aptitude to manipulate the growth of cells that are not dependent on hormones.


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