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Open Access Research

Estimated dietary phytoestrogen intake and major food sources among women during the year before pregnancy

Suzan L Carmichael1*, Amparo G Gonzalez-Feliciano2, Chen Ma1, Gary M Shaw1 and Mary E Cogswell3

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Pediatrics, Stanford University, Stanford, CA, USA

2 Division of Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities, currently with Science Applications International Corporation, Immunization Services Division, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, GA, USA

3 Division of Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities, currently with Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, GA, USA

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Nutrition Journal 2011, 10:105  doi:10.1186/1475-2891-10-105

Published: 6 October 2011

Abstract

Background

Phytoestrogens may be associated with a variety of different health outcomes, including outcomes related to reproductive health. Recently published data on phytoestrogen content of a wide range of foods provide an opportunity to improve estimation of dietary phytoestrogen intake.

Methods

Using the recently published data, we estimated intake among a representative sample of 6,584 women of reproductive age from a multi-site, population-based case-control study, the National Birth Defects Prevention Study (NBDPS). The NBDPS uses a shortened version of the Willett food frequency questionnaire to estimate dietary intake during the year before pregnancy. We estimated intake among NBDPS control mothers.

Results

Lignans contributed 65% of total phytoestrogen intake; isoflavones, 29%; and coumestrol, 5%. Top contributors to total phytoestrogen intake were vegetables (31%) and fruit (29%); for isoflavones, dairy (33%) and fruit (21%); for lignans, vegetables (40%) and fruit (29%); and for coumestans, fruit (55%) and dairy (18%). Hispanic women had higher phytoestrogen intake than non-Hispanic white or black women. Associations with maternal age and folic acid-containing supplements were more modest but indicated that older mothers and mothers taking supplements had higher intake.

Conclusions

The advantage of the approach used for the current analysis lies in its utilization of phytoestrogen values derived from a single laboratory that used state-of-the-art measurement techniques. The database we developed can be applied directly to other studies using food frequency questionnaires, especially the Willett questionnaire. The database, combined with consistent dietary intake assessment, provides an opportunity to improve our ability to understand potential associations of phytoestrogen intake with health outcomes.

Keywords:
phytoestrogen; lignan; isoflavone; pregnancy