Proceedings of the Nutrition Society

Postgraduate Symposium

Does genotype and equol-production status affect response to isoflavones? Data from a pan-European study on the effects of isoflavones on cardiovascular risk markers in post-menopausal women

Katerina Vafeiadoua1 c1, Wendy L. Halla1 and Christine M. Williamsa1

a1 Hugh Sinclair Unit of Human Nutrition, School of Food Biosciences, Whiteknights, University of Reading, Reading RG6 6AP, UK


The increase in CVD incidence following the menopause is associated with oestrogen loss. Dietary isoflavones are thought to be cardioprotective via their oestrogenic and oestrogen receptor-independent effects, but evidence to support this role is scarce. Individual variation in response to diet may be considerable and can obscure potential beneficial effects in a sample population; in particular, the response to isoflavone treatment may vary according to genotype and equol-production status. The effects of isoflavone supplementation (50 mg/d) on a range of established and novel biomarkers of CVD, including markers of lipid and glucose metabolism and inflammatory biomarkers, have been investigated in a placebo-controlled 2×8-week randomised cross-over study in 117 healthy post-menopausal women. Responsiveness to isoflavone supplementation according to (1) single nucleotide polymorphisms in a range of key CVD genes, including oestrogen receptor (ER) α and β and (2) equol-production status has been examined. Isoflavones supplementation was found to have no effect on markers of lipids and glucose metabolism. Isoflavones improve C-reactive protein concentrations but do not affect other plasma inflammatory markers. There are no differences in response to isoflavones according to equol-production status. However, differences in HDL-cholesterol and vascular cell adhesion molecule 1 response to isoflavones v. placebo are evident with specific ERβ genotypes. In conclusion, isoflavones have beneficial effects on C-reactive protein, but not other cardiovascular risk markers. However, specific ERβ gene polymorphic subgroups may benefit from isoflavone supplementation.


c1 *Corresponding author: Katerina Vafeiadou, fax +44 118 9310080, email