Helsingin yliopisto


Helsingin yliopiston verkkojulkaisut

University of Helsinki, Helsinki 2006

Identification of Isoflavonoid Metabolites in Humans

Satu-Maarit Heinonen

Doctoral dissertation, November 2006.
University of Helsinki, Faculty of Science, Department of Chemistry, Laboratory of Organic Chemistry and Folkhälsan Research Center, Institute for Preventive Medicine, Nutrition, and Cancer and University of Helsinki, Faculty of Medicine, Division of Clinical Chemistry.

Epidemiological studies have associated high soy intake with a lowered risk for certain hormone-dependent diseases, such as breast and prostate cancers, osteoporosis, and cardiovascular disease. Soy is a rich source of isoflavones, diphenolic plant compounds that have been shown to possess several biological activities. Soy is not part of the traditional Western diet, but many dietary supplements are commercially available in order to provide the proposed beneficial health effects of isoflavones without changing the original diet. These supplements are usually manufactured from extracts of soy or red clover, which is another important source of isoflavones. However, until recently, detailed studies of the metabolism of these compounds in humans have been lacking.

The aim of this study was to identify urinary metabolites of isoflavones originating from soy or red clover using gas chromatography - mass spectrometry (GC-MS). To examine metabolism, soy and red clover supplementation studies with human volunteers were carried out. In addition, the metabolism of isoflavones was investigated in vitro by identification of metabolites formed during a 24-h fermentation of pure isoflavones with a human fecal inoculum. Qualitative methods for identification and analysis of isoflavone metabolites in urine and fecal fermentation samples by GC-MS were developed. Moreover, a detailed investigation of fragmentation of isoflavonoids in electron ionization mass spectrometry (EIMS) was carried out by means of synthetic reference compounds and deuterated trimethylsilyl derivatives.

After isoflavone supplementation, 18 new metabolites of isoflavones were identified in human urine samples. The most abundant urinary metabolites of soy isoflavones daidzein, genistein, and glycitein were found to be the reduced metabolites, i.e. analogous isoflavanones, a-methyldeoxybenzoins, and isoflavans. Metabolites having additional hydroxyl and/or methoxy substituents, or their reduced analogs, were also identified. The main metabolites of red clover isoflavones formononetin and biochanin A were identified as daidzein and genistein. In addition, reduced and hydroxylated metabolites of formononetin and biochanin A were identified; however, they occurred at much lower levels in urine samples than daidzein or genistein or their reduced metabolites.

The results of this study show that the metabolism of isoflavones is diverse. More studies are needed to determine whether the new isoflavonoid metabolites identified here have biological activities that contribute to the proposed beneficial effects of isoflavones on human health. Another task is to develop validated quantitative methods to determine the actual levels of isoflavones and their metabolites in biological matrices in order to assess the role of isoflavones in prevention of chronic diseases.

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Last updated 10.10.2006

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