Phytoestrogens in foods on the Nordic market

A literature review on occurrence and levels

image of Phytoestrogens in foods on the Nordic market

Phytoestrogens are plant-derived compounds that may bind to estrogen receptors, but with less affinity than the natural ligand estradiol. They may be biologically active as such or after metabolization in our body. To investigate the occurrence and level of phytoestrogens, scientific literature was screened for data on isoflavones, lignans, stilbenes and coumestans in raw and processed foods of plant origin. The review presents data based both on analytical methods hydrolysing glucosides and non-destructive methods.Many phytoestrogens are phytoalexins. Their production is induced when plants are exposed to abiotic and/or biotic stress. This could explain the rather different levels reported in plants by various investigators, and indicates that many samples are required to describe the levels generally occurring in foodstuffs. The influence of food processing was also considered.




In many countries, there is a vivid discussion on compounds called endocrine disruptors. These compounds, assumed to interfere with the hormonal systems of humans and animals, are not well defined, partly because of the very large number of compounds that need to be considered. For example, they can be found among industrial chemicals and pharmaceuticals and are present in the environment, not least in our food.


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