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CAS Number
PubChem CID
E number{{#property:P628}}
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Chemical and physical data
Molar mass270.241 g/mol

Genistein is one of several known isoflavones. Isoflavones, such as genistein and daidzein, are found in a number of plants, with soybeans and soy products like tofu and textured vegetable protein being the primary food source. Soy isoflavones are a group of compounds found in and isolated from the soybean. Besides functioning as antioxidants, many isoflavones have been shown to interact with animal and human estrogen receptors, causing effects in the body similar to those caused by the hormone estrogen. Soy isoflavones also produce non-hormonal effects.

Isoflavones act as antioxidants to counteract damaging effects of free radicals in tissues. Isoflavones can act like estrogen in stimulating development and maintenance of female characteristics or they can block cells from using other forms of estrogen. Isoflavones also have been found to have antiangiogenic effects (blocking formation of new blood vessels), and may block the uncontrolled cell growth associated with cancer, most likely by inhibiting the activity of substances in the body that regulate cell division and cell survival (growth factors).

Studies show that groups of people who eat large amounts of soy-based products have lower incidences of breast, colon, endometrial, and prostate cancers than the general (US) population. Initial studies of soy isoflavone mixtures containing genistein, daidzein, and glycitein have found them safe for human use. Laboratory studies using animals models have shown that both soy and isoflavones can be protective against cancer when given during early life but can stimulate response to cancer-causing chemicals when given during fetal development or when circulating levels of estrogen are low (menopause).

Cancer link

Some recent studies have raised the concern that genistein might potentially increase the risk of leukemia, because it can inhibit an enzyme (topoisomerase) that protects DNA from mutations[citation needed]. Some cancer patients whose chemotherapy drugs inhibited topoisomerase later developed leukemia. NCI researchers have completed animal studies on genistein with no adverse effects being seen. Clinical trials with people are in progress.

Molecular function

Genistein influences several targets in living cells. One important function is the inhibition of several tyrosine kinases. Genistein also inhibits the mammalian hexose transporter GLUT1 and contraction of several types of smooth muscles. Genistein can bind to CFTR receptors. This binding causes the channel to become permanently open causing "free-flow" of chloride ions through the channel.

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