Nutrition Notes

Genistein: A Botanical for Inflammatory Support and Bone Health

Genistein is a flavonoid derived from legumes such as fava beans, soybeans, and kudzu. It is known as an isoflavone and has been shown to support the body’s response to inflammation. Genistein has also been shown to support bone and cellular health, cardiovascular function, and postmenopausal health. 

The body’s inflammatory response can be acute or chronic. The chronic inflammatory responses have been linked to the pathogenesis of many disease processes. Nuclear factor-kappa B (NF-κB) plays a role in the inflammatory response. Genistein has been shown in many studies to help modulate molecules, such as NF-κB and support a healthy response to inflammation. 

In laboratory studies, genistein has been shown to influence the binding activity and signaling pathways of ​​NF-κB. Genistein was shown to significantly attenuate increases in NF-κB levels induced by tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-α) in human epidermal keratinocyte cells. In both laboratory and animal studies, genistein was shown to modulate the activation of NF-κB induced by angiotensin II. 

One animal study investigated the effects of genistein on chronic sleep deprivation in mice. Genistein was shown to significantly reduce the hippocampal NF-κB protein expression and the protein expression of NF-κB p65 in the cortex.  

Genistein has also been shown to influence other inflammatory pathways. It has been shown in laboratory studies to suppress the messenger RNA expression level of cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2), an agent associated with inflammation. It has been shown in animal studies to significantly decrease the expression of COX-2 in the presence of endometriosis in mice models. Other studies have shown that genistein may influence pro-inflammatory cytokines, such as tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-α), interleukin (IL)-1ꞵ, and IL-6. Genistein was also shown to restore the expression of anti-inflammatory mediators such as IL-10. 

Oxidative stress may also be influenced by genistein. The genistein has been shown to modulate the activity and intracellular levels of reactive oxygen species (ROS). It has also been shown to influence nitric oxide production. 

Genistein has also been shown to influence many aspects of bone health. It has been shown to help stimulate bone formation and may help support osteoblast cell proliferation

An animal study explored the effect of genistein and other isoflavones on bone health in the presence of ovariectomy. Elevated alkaline phosphatase levels were observed at the study conclusion, suggesting active bone formation activity.  

In clinical studies, genistein and other isoflavones were shown to help promote healthy bone density. One study explored the effect of isoflavones on the bone integrity of healthy postmenopausal individuals. Study results indicate that isoflavones, including genistein, may help improve bone mineral density

Although more studies need to be conducted especially in humans. Studies indicate that genistein is a bioactive molecule that may support bone health. It may also support the body’s response to inflammation and oxidative stress. 

By Colleen Ambrose, ND, MAT