2008 Volume 216 Issue 4 Pages 341-351
Impaired lipid metabolism is an important health problem in postmenopausal women with insufficient estrogens, because dyslipidemia is a risk factor for development of atherosclerosis and the incidence of cardiovascular disease markedly increases after menopause. Pueraria mirifica (PM), a Thai herb, has been noticed as a source of phytoestrogens, estrogen-mimicking plant compounds. However, the clinical effects of PM on lipid metabolism and the underlying molecular mechanisms remain undetermined. Therefore, we examined the effects of PM on serum lipid parameters in a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial. Nineteen postmenopausal women were randomly assigned to receive oral administration of PM powder or placebo. After 2 months of treatment, the PM group showed a significant increase in serum concentrations of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol and apolipoprotein (apo) A-1 (34% and 40%, respectively), and a significant decrease in low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol and apo B (17% and 9%, respectively), compared with baseline measurements. Moreover, significant decreases were observed in the ratios of LDL cholesterol to HDL cholesterol (37%) and apo B to apo A-1 (35%). Next, we determined the effects of PM phytoestrogens on the activation of estrogen receptor (ER)-mediated transactivation by transient expression assays of a reporter gene in cultured cells. Among PM phytoestrogens, miroestrol and coumestrol enhanced both ERα- and ERβ-mediated transactivation, whereas other phytoestrogens, including daidzein and genistein, preferentially enhanced ERβ-mediated transactivation. In conclusion, PM has a beneficial effect on lipid metabolism in postmenopausal women, which may result from the activation of gene transcription through selective binding of phytoestrogens to ERα and ERβ.