Red clover and soy are rich sources of isoflavones. They have been used extensively to treat symptoms of menopause and reduce bone loss in women with osteoporosis because of their estrogen-like effects. In a recent paper published in Menopause (Tyagi, A.M., et al., 2012) the isoflavone, formononetin, (found in high amounts in red clover and soy) was found to have “a substantial anabolic effect [on bone], thus raising the possibility of its use in postmenopausal osteoporosis.” This study demonstrated that formononetin “significantly restored the lost trabecular microarchitecture in the femurs and tibia of osteopenic Ovx [ovariectomized] rats and promoted new bone formation.”

Although the use of phytoestrogens to treat women with osteoporosis appears promising, caution should always be used when taking any supplement containing estrogen-like compounds. These compounds could potentially contribute to the formation of blood clots or worsen some forms of cancer. It’s always good to check with your doctor before taking supplements containing phyto-estrogens.

Tyagi, A.M., et al. 2012. Formononetin reverses established osteopenia in adult ovariectomized rats. Menopause 19(8):856-863.