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Thursday, 30 January 2014 00:00

A method to increase the intestinal absorption of beneficial compounds of the soya bean has been tested

The Allelopathy group in Superior Plants and Microorganisms of the University of Cadiz, belonging to the Agrifood Campus of International Excellence (ceiA3), is developing a method that will allow an increase in the processing of the isoflavones of the soya bean in the intestine and, moreover, the beneficial characteristics of the compounds of this vegetal. The strategy is to add bacteria to improve the processability of isoflavones, soy-derived substances with antioxidant capacity in people who cannot metabolize these compounds to produce S-equol. It is a compound that only certain intestinal bacteria produce in some humans after consumption of soy. It is the result of metabolism of daidzein isoflavone, one of the beneficial constituents of the soybean.

Does the mayor consumption of soya bean produce more benefices for the health? That depends on whether the bacteria of the intestine can process it or not. This implies that the capacity to metabolise the isoflavones of the soya bean of a person depends on the composition of its intestinal micro flora. In this way, not everyone is capable of metabolise these beneficial compounds, only those people who have this very particular microbiota in their intestine.

The strategy of the researchers of the University of Cadiz and the Puerta del Mar University Hospital will permit the induction of this capacity of S-equol production in those who do not generate it themselves. “There are S-equol producing intestinal microbiota and others that are not. This microbiota protects us against diseases in which an inflammatory process is involved or even those where there is damage to cellular DNA, such as cancer,”, explains one of the researchers  in charge of the study, Francisco Antonio Macias, to Fundación Descubre.

According to the researchers, only 25-35 % of the world population have the microbiota that produce this compound, except in countries that are big consumers of soya bean like Vietnam, China, Korea, Japan, among others, that achieve the 65 %. The method consists of combining the isoflavones, functional compounds came of the soya bean, with a producer specific bacteria family of S-equol. “We are working to locate the bacteria that best produce S-equol. The next step would be to implant them in the body of individuals who do not possess it and feed them with soybeans”, explains Macias.

The idea is to obtain what researchers term symbiotic, a product based on the strain of bacteria and soy isoflavones to act on the intestinal flora, so that the individual S-equol is produced. For now, the Pharmacology group at the Seville Faculty of Pharmacy, are testing these isoflavones in mice. “First, they will induce an illness, then they will feed them a rich diet in isoflavones, and finally they will check if this diet improves the health of these animals”, explains the researcher.  

The conclusions of this study titled “Soy isoflavones and their relationship with micro flora: beneficial effects on human health in equol producers” published in the Phytochemistry Reviews, shows that the capacity of the individuals to produce S-equol is an important condition in order to enjoy the benefits of these products.
One of the advantages of this methodology is that the bacteria could be adapted to the intestinal micro biota, without secondary effects, just as happens with others probiotics “It will open the door to new therapy, without side effects, capable of generating S-equol in a natural way. This will also mean a decrease in cardiovascular risk, in the incidence of prostate and mammary cancer, and in a major relief of the symptoms related to the menopause, such as the hot flashes and osteoporosis”, he said.

Intestinal micro flora

The researchers emphasize the complexity of the human microbiota, that is, the set of microorganisms that are found commonly in different locations on the human body. In particular, experts are studying the microorganisms present in the intestine, producers of S-equol.

To detect if the intestinal micro biota of a person has the capacity to produce S-equol, researchers will choose a sample set of individuals who will be fed a diet with specific quantities of isoflavones during some days. Afterward, the urine of a 24 hours period will be collected and analysed to see if it contains S-equol. “When we identify the people who produce it, will use their feces to identify producing strains”, explains the researcher.

Bibliographic Reference:

Sánchez-Calvo, J M ; Rodríguez-Iglesias, M A ; Molinillo, J M G ; Macias, F A. ‘Soy isoflavones and their relationship with microflora: beneficial effects on human health in equol producers’, Phytochemistry Reviews (2013) 12(4): 979-1000.

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