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Nutritionist and Lifestyle Coach Effie Parnell-Hopkinson explains more about how exogenous oestrogens can affect women.
Sources of dietary oestrogen have received a remarkable amount of media and research attention. These are mainly found in soy products such as tofu and milk and meat alternatives. The media headlines are often bold and raise more questions than answers, but this comes as no surprise given that oestrogen plays a major role in breast cancer and fertility. Soy products, mainly isoflavones, have a number of possible health benefits that have been reflected in Asian populations for many years. These include a reduced risk of heart disease (1) and breast cancer (2), as well as reducing the symptoms associated with menopause (4).
Plastic related health concerns have received a large amount of media coverage and research attention in the last decade, but exactly how plastics affect our health is still largely up for debate. Although there are many unsolved questions, National agencies have issued a range of hesitant warnings and recommendations limiting the use of plastics.
Plastics such as BPA have been shown to release chemicals, that act in a similar way to oestrogen. The release of chemicals from the plastic is accelerated if the product is exposed to heat such as from microwaves and dishwashers (7). Although many plastic products are now marked as BPA-free, a study that collected and examined over 450 such products found that even the ones marked BPA-free, released chemicals with an oestrogenic effect (7, 8).
More research is needed to draw conclusive guidelines on the use of plastics. However, some simple things you can do straight away include limiting your use of plastic food containers, plastic bottles and the use of extreme heat on plastic products. These steps will not only reduce your waste and look after the environment. but it may also positively impact your health.
We all understand that excessive alcohol consumption isn’t good for our health, but how much is too much?
UK guidelines state that it is safest for adults not to regularly drink more than 14 units a week (CMO, 2016), which equates to 6 pints of beer, 6 glasses of wine or 14 shots of spirit. If you do regularly drink over 14 units of alcohol in a week, it is suggested to spread your drinking over three or more days. However, the risk of developing a range of life-threatening diseases increases the more you drink on a regular basis (CMO, 2016).
Drinking alcohol is the root of 4,400 cases of breast cancer and the risk increases whether you drink it in one go or a bit at a time (Cancer Research UK, 2016). It is also 1.5 times greater for women who drink two to five drinks per day (9). This along with the proven exogenous oestrogenic effects of alcohol makes alcohol consumption a concern for women (10), especially those who are experiencing menopausal symptoms. A fine line separates “moderate” from “excessive” drinking, and when it comes to drinking during menopause, the amount really does matter. It is important to remember that every woman is different, so finding what works for you is key, but be aware that it may worsen symptoms or harm your health.
Although the evidence is somewhat inconclusive, reducing your use of plastics and controlling your alcohol intake are all great places to start to improve your health and reducing your exposure to exogenous oestrogens.
1. British Dietetic Association (2017). Food Fact Sheet: Soya, food and health. https://www.bda.uk.com/foodfacts/soya_and_health.pdf
2. Messina, M., Wu, A. H. (2009). Perspectives on the soy-breast cancer relation. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 89, 1673-1679.
5. Vahid Dastjerdi, M., Eslami, B., Alsadat Sharifi, M., Moini, A., Bayani, L., Mohammad Khani, H., & Alipour, S. (2018). Effect of Soy Isoflavone on Hot Flushes, Endometrial Thickness, and Breast Clinical as well as Sonographic Features. Iranian journal of public health, 47(3), 382-389.
6. Lanou, A. J. (2011). Soy foods: are they useful for optimal bone health?. Therapeutic advances in musculoskeletal disease, 3(6), 293-300.
7. Yang, C. Z., Yaniger, S. I., Jordan, C., Klein, D. J., & Bittner, G. D. (2011). Most Plastic Products Release Estrogenic Chemicals: A Potential Health Problem That Can Be Solved. Environmental Health Perspectives, 7(119).
8. Bittner, G. D., Yang, C. Z., & Stoner, M. A. (2014). Estrogenic chemicals often leach from BPA-free plastic products that are replacements for BPA-containing polycarbonate products. Environmental health: a global access science source, 13(1), 41.
10. Gill, J. (2000). The Effects of Moderate Alcohol Consumption on Female Hormone Levels and Reproductive Function. Alcohol and Alcoholism, 35(5), 417-423.