Menopause is associated with midlife, a time when many women begin to experience the signs and symptoms of aging, such as increases in blood pressure, changes in lipid profiles, loss of bone mass density, and diminished memory and cognition. Given the result of the Women’s Health Initiative, many women no longer consider hormone therapy the first option for promoting healthy aging. Instead they are turning to botanical and dietary supplement (BDS) products in place of hormone therapy. This paper reviews the evidence available for use of isoflavones from soy and red clover, for the treatment or prevention of these health issues.
The MEDLINE and EMBASE databases was searched for articles relating to soy or red clover supplement use for prevention and/or treatment of heart disease, hyperlipidemia, osteoporosis, mood disorders and cognitive abilities. Studies were included if they were randomized, controlled trials and included peri- or postmenopausal women.
Isoflavone products appear to be the most useful for improving lipid profiles; however, the evidence suggests that isoflavone extracts from soy are less effective than products containing soy protein or red clover isoflavones. Soy protein appears to reduce total cholesterol levels and LDL cholesterol, while red clover reduces triglycerides and increases HDL cholesterol. The data was somewhat less convincing, although promising, for increasing bone mass density and improving cognitive abilities.
Research suggests that isoflavone found in soy foods and red clover appear to have a small but positive health effect on plasma lipid concentrations, bone mass density, cognitive abilities. Given the lack of serious safety concerns in the short term, it would appear that including soy and red clover in the diet of postmenopausal women, not withstanding a soy allergy, would be beneficial.
Keywords: isoflavones, soy, red clover, lipids, bone mass density