Phytoestrogens and anthropogenic estrogenic compounds

Stephen H. Safe, Kevin Gaido

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

56 Scopus citations


The human diet contains a diverse spectrum of endogenous chemicals that exhibit either direct or indirect hormonal activity. These include natural compounds that bind the estrogen, androgen, aryl hydrocarbon, retinoic acid, and retinoic X receptors. In addition, several studies have identified a large number of chemical contaminants that exhibit estrogenic activity (xenoestrogens), and humans are also exposed to these compounds in the diet. Some of these chemicals include diverse phenolics such as hisphenol A, phthalates, polychlorinated biphenyls, and diverse organochlorine pesticides. Most of the endogenous dietary estrogens (including flavonoids and other phytoestrogens) and xenoestrogens are weak estrogen receptor agonists, and based on mass intake, human exposure to phytoestrogens is much higher than to xenoestrogens. The relative importance of dietary exposure to estrogenic compounds is unknown, and their effects will depend on a number of factors, including metabolism and pharmacokinetics, compound potency, serum concentrations, relative binding to serum proteins, levels of exposure during critical periods, and interactions or cross-talk with other endocrine response pathways.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)119-126
Number of pages8
JournalEnvironmental Toxicology and Chemistry
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1998


  • Induced responses
  • Phytoestrogens
  • Xenoestrogens

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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