Soy Isoflavone Supplementation Does Not Alter Distribution of Circulating Lymphocytes or Natural Killer Cell Activity in Postmenopausal Women
A growing body of evidence has demonstrated that soy isoflavone consumption may protect against the development of various chronic diseases. This defense could be linked to isoflavone-induced alterations in immune function. However, to date, no study has examined the effect of soy isoflavone supplementation on human immunity in vivo. Establishing whether isoflavones affect immunity in aging adults is particularly relevant since compromised immune function has been observed in this population. Therefore, the purpose of this double-blind, placebo-controlled, 4-wk intervention trial was to investigate whether supplementation with soy isoflavones influenced the distribution and/or function of specific lymphocytes in postmenopausal women. Healthy postmenopausal women (50-69 y), who were not using hormone replacement therapy, were randomly divided into 2 treatment groups. The experimental group (n=9) consumed two-50 mg soy isoflavone tablets/d for 4 wk, while the control group (n=9) received placebo tablets. Fasting blood samples were drawn at baseline and on d 28 to assess distribution of T-helper cells (CD3+CD4+), T-cytotoxic cells (CD3+CD8+), total T lymphocytes (CD3+), B lymphocytes (CD19+) and natural killer (NK) cells (CD16+CD56+) via flow cytometry. Cytotoxicity of NK cells was quantified based on lactate dehydrogenase release of lysed K562 cancer cells following co-culture with NK cells from subjects. Analysis of plasma isoflavone concentrations by HPLC demonstrated a significant increase (p<0.005) in plasma genistein concentration in the experimental group after 4 wk of supplementation. However, there was no alteration in lymphocyte distribution or NK cell activity in response to isoflavone supplementation, suggesting that short-term soy isoflavone supplementation does not alter these parameters of immunity in healthy postmenopausal women.