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Protect your Prostate and Prevent Balding with Soyfoods?

By Lara Pizzorno, MDiv, MA, LMT
August 23, 2011
File under: Diet, Nutrition

The latest research findings related to soy — specifically, to a compound derived from soybeans called equol –suggest that soybeans may be a plant panacea for men.  Equol, which our intestinal bacteria can make from a phytonutrient abundant in soybeans called daidzen, protects against benign prostatic hypertrophy (BPH), prostate cancer & male pattern baldness.

Certain health-promoting intestinal bacteria can convert daidzein into equol, which is not only a seriously powerful antioxidant, but specifically binds to and shuts down men’s most aggressive, hyped-up form of testosterone:  5alpha-dihydrotestosterone (5α-DHT).  Equol prevents 5α-DHT from attaching to androgen receptors (the cell receptors for male hormones), not only in the prostate, but also in and around the hair follicle, thus preventing initiation of the whole cascade of cellular events that leads to an enlarged prostate and male pattern baldness.

In addition binding to 5α-DHT, equol also latches on to an estrogen receptor abundant in the prostate called estrogen-receptor beta. ER-β regulates cell proliferation in the prostate, promoting the differentiation of normal cells and the apoptosis (cellular suicide) of cancerous cells. Thus, equol greatly lessens a man’s risk of BPH and prostate cancer through at least two mechanisms.

You may have heard that to so-called “phytoestrogens” in soy foods are not good for “real men,” but the research shows no changes in men’s testosterone or other hormone levels – just a dampening down of potentially harmful 5α-DHT.

Over the last several decades, soy protein has been shown to promote cardiovascular, bone and menopausal health, and also to be protective against breast cancer. Researchers are now suggesting that most of soy’s beneficial effects in both sexes are related to an individual’s ability to transform daidzein into equol. Not all healthy adults are equally able to make this conversion.  Those whose intestinal bacteria enable them to be good “equol-producers” are those who benefit most from eating soyfoods.

How can you increase your likelihood of being a good equol-producer, so you can prevent your prostate from enlarging and your hairline from receding? Until equol is available as a supplement, you can make fermented soy foods (miso, natto, tofu, tempeh, tamari) a regular feature in your diet; fermented soy foods provide daidzein in a form that intestinal bacteria can more easily convert to equol. And if you don’t already, learn to love coleslaw. Equol, which is very stable, has recently been discovered ready-made in white cabbage.



Bland J. Functional Medicine Update, July 2011, Interview with Edwin Lephart, PhD. Available at Synthesis by Jeffery Bland

Lund TD, Blake C, Bu L, Hamaker AN, Lephart ED. Equol an isoflavonoid: potential for improved prostate health, in vitro and in vivo evidence. Reprod Biol Endocrinol. 2011 Jan 13;9:4. PMID: 21232127

Setchell KD, Clerici C, Lephart ED, Cole SJ, et al. S-equol, a potent ligand for estrogen receptor beta, is the exclusive enantiomeric form of the soy isoflavone metabolite produced by human intestinal bacterial flora. Am J Clin Nutr. 2005 May;81(5):1072-9. PMID: 15883431

Lund TD, Munson DJ, Haldy ME, Setchell KD, Lephart ED, et al. Equol is a novel anti-androgen that inhibits prostate growth and hormone feedback. Biol Reprod. 2004 Apr;70(4):1188-95. Epub 2003 Dec 17. PMID:14681200

Setchell KD, Brown NM, Lydeking-Olsen E. The clinical importance of the metabolite equol-a clue to the effectiveness of soy and its isoflavones. J Nutr. 2002 Dec;132(12):3577-84. PMID: 12468591

by Lara Pizzorno, MDiv, MA, LMT

Author of the new book Your Bones: How You Can Prevent Osteoporosis & Have Strong Bones for Life – Naturally

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