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Increased Consumption of Phytoestrogens Linked to Lower Incidence of Wheezing, Asthma and Allergy

SAN DIEGO, CA – Is there a relationship between diet and markers of asthma and allergies? Individuals who had higher urinary levels of certain phytoestrogens were found to have lower incidences of wheezing, asthma and allergy, according to a study presented at the 2014 Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI).

Phytoestrogens are estrogen-like compounds that occur naturally in plants of the legume family and in grains, vegetables and fruits. “There has been evidence in studies looking at what’s going on at the cellular level that some phytoestrogens may have an immunomodulatory effect, or rather they may modify or regulate the immune system in a certain way,” said Jessica Rabe Savage, MD, who was involved in the study. “So we decided to look at a human population and see if there was a relationship between phytoestrogens and markers of asthma and allergy.”

Dr. Savage and colleagues at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston used data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey from years 2003 to 2010. They obtained urinary phytoestrogen levels, history of wheezing and asthma, total and specific IgE levels, and blood markers of allergic diseases for 10,708 subjects. Atopy was defined as having at least one positive specific IgE level to an aeroallergen.

Statistical analysis was used to determine associations between phytoestrogen levels and the aforementioned outcomes, adjusting for age, sex, ethnicity, poverty index ratio and creatinine. Creatinine is a substance measured in blood and urine tests as an indicator of kidney function.

The researchers found that urinary levels of several phytoestrogens were inversely associated with wheezing, specifically O-DMA, enterodiol and enterolactone. This means that higher levels of these phytoestrogens were associated with lower incidence of wheezing. Enterolactone was also inversely associated with asthma.  

Regarding atopy, its odds significantly decreased with increasing daidzein levels. Daidzein was also associated with lower levels of total IgE.

“Now that we’ve uncovered this inverse relationship between phytoestrogen levels and markers of asthma and allergies, more research should be do
ne to investigate whether increased consumption of sources of phytoestrogens may help prevent or treat these conditions,” said Dr. Savage.

More information on asthma and allergies is available from the AAAAI website.

The AAAAI represents allergists, asthma specialists, clinical immunologists, allied health professionals and others with a special interest in the research and treatment of allergic disease. Established in 1943, the AAAAI has more than 6,700 members in the United States, Canada and 60 other countries.


Editor's notes:
•This study was presented during the 2014 Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI) on February 28-March 4 in San Diego. However, they do not necessarily reflect the policies or the opinions of the AAAAI.
•A link to all abstracts presented at the Annual Meeting is available at

Megan Brown
(414) 272-6071 (AAAAI executive office)
(619) 525-6238 (AAAAI Annual Meeting press room, San Diego Convention Center, February 28-March 4) 



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