Soybeans are uniquely rich sources of isoflavones, which have been studied in connection with a variety of health benefits. There is also reason to think that isoflavone consumption could be beneficial for overall quality of life because they sometimes have estrogen-like properties. Estrogen decline in postmenopausal women is implicated in several age-related physical and psychological changes, including decreases in perceived quality of life. Several trials with hormone therapy showed beneficial effects on quality of life parameters. However, because of known or suspected serious side effects of conventional hormone therapy, there is a need for alternatives.
Consequently, Italian researchers evaluated the effect of the isoflavone genistein on quality of life in a 2 year study. Genistein is the main isoflavone in soybeans. Women were given either a placebo or 54 milligrams of genistein daily, the amount provided by about four servings of traditional soyfoods.
At study enrollment and after one and two years, study participants filled out two different questionnaires designed to assess overall health status, life satisfaction, and depression. At the end of two years, scores among women taking the placebo decreased on all dimensions. In contrast, several quality of life measures increased quite markedly among the women taking genistein. Specifically, there were improvements related to physical and social function, vitality, pain, and mental and general health perception.
Although more research is needed, the results of this study suggest that consuming soyfoods may help to counter many of the unwanted changes women often experience as they transit through menopause.
Atteritano et al. Osteoporos Int 2013.