Phytoestrogenic molecules have received a great deal of attention over the last few years because of their potentially preventive roles against a few of today's most prevalent chronic diseases, namely cardiovascular diseases, osteoporosis and hormone related cancers. Of the several phytoestrogens, genistein in particular has been shown to be the most efficacious in animal models and experimental studies. Genistein in vitro relaxes rat arteries by a nitric oxide dependent mechanism and enhances the dilator response to acetylcholine of atherosclerotic arteries. Genistein supplementation improves endothelial dysfunction induced by oophorectomy in rats and reduces infarct size in an experimental model of myocardial ischaemia-reperfusion injury. Furthermore, genistein in postmenopausal women increases plasma nitric oxide breakdown products, reduces endothelin-1 levels and improves endothelial dependent vasodilation in post-menopausal women. All these findings, taken together, would suggest that this molecule might represent an attractive alternative for cardiovascular protection.
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