Phytoestrogens: Endocrine Disruptors that can Alter Hormonal Function

Updated: Mar 6, 2020

Deeper look at phytoestrogens for children & adolescent’s health. Phytoestrogens are plant-derived xenoestrogens, also known as endocrine disruptors. They are chemicals with the potential to disrupt normal hormonal function. Phytoestrogens are not generated in the endocrine system, but rather ingested when phytoestrogenic plants are consumed, especially legumes, soy, flax, seeds, oats, & cruciferous vegetables. In diets containing little to no animal foods such as vegan and vegetarian diets, the main source of protein is soy (tofu/tempeh).

Phytoestrogens are most commonly found in: soy/legumes, flax, oats, & cruciferous vegetables. Diets heavy in phytoestrogens with little inclusion of animal products are reason for concern, especially for children & adolescents. Risks include:

  • Malformations in the ovary, uterus, mammary gland, & prostate

  • Early puberty

  • Reduced fertility

  • Disrupted brain organization

  • Abnormal estrous cycles

  • Altered ovarian function

  • Early reproductive senescence

  • Subfertility & infertility

For children & adolescents, limited animal foods & increased foods high in phytoestrogens presents a list of potential consequences. See image above. Not surprisingly, the US has seen rising rates of all of these symptoms, occurring in tandem w/ greater consumption of soy. There’s no reason to be afraid of phytoestrogens with conscious consumption, & this isn’t an end all be all. As our good pal @christian_unger13 says, “the devils in the details” - phytoestrogens do have potential beneficial therapeutic effects depending how they’re used, what type used, etc. They have a wide array of potential uses of which include osteoporosis, cardiovascular disease, anti-inflammatory, insulin resistance, & metabolic syndrome. But as always, further research is needed to explore these avenues. Christian talks a lot about this, view his content for some cool insight. Regardless, regular inclusion of soy or other sources of phytoestrogens should be cautioned, especially by sensitive populations & in the absence of an otherwise nutrient dense (meat filled) diet. The avoidance of phytoestrogens once following a carnivorous diet is likely why we see several examples of these issues either being avoided or reversed 👍🏼