Purdue University researchers say that dietary supplements claiming to help postmenopausal women with bone health may not be doing what they say. "We found that some plant-derived isoflavones have a modest effect on suppressing bone loss during post-menopause, but more concerning is many dietary supplements that claim to have the power of estrogen do not," said Purdue's Connie Weaver.
"It's buyer beware. Some of the supplements in our study claimed to be substitutes for estrogen, yet they weren't effective at all or weren't as effective as some of the current treatments for osteoporosis," she added.
Weaver and her team looked at four popular isoflavones: soy cotyledon, soy germ, red clover and kudzu. These plant-derived phytoestrogens are claimed to protect bone health from estrogen loss, which can lead to osteoporosis and even fractures.
They compared the four isoflavones to a traditional bisphosphonate treatment, risedronate and estrogen plus progesterone. These traditional therapies decreased bone loss 22 percent to 24 percent, but only soy isoflavones from the cotyledon and germ significantly decreased bone loss by 9 percent and 5 percent, respectively.
"This is a reminder that it's better to build up a good healthy skeleton than to rely on a drug to fix it later," Weaver said. "Healthy bones can be maintained by a good diet that is rich in calcium and regular exercise that includes strength training."
The findings also indicate that the soy cotyledon was more effective because of its higher genistein content. Weaver's team is currently evaluating the role of genistein more closely. "Before, we might have assumed that any isoflavone was equally effective, but we found that for a supplement to work it was because of the genistein content specifically," she said.
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Source: Purdue University