Cooperative effects of isoflavones and exercise on bone and lipid metabolism have been exhibited in estrogen-deficient animals; however, results from clinical trials have not been published. In this study, we determined the effects of isoflavone intake and walking and their interaction on bone and lipid metabolism in postmenopausal women over 24 weeks. The bioavailability and metabolism of isoflavones (daidzein in particular) were also examined to clarify the mechanism of their bone-protective effects in humans. One hundred twenty-eight subjects were randomly assigned to 4 groups: placebo; placebo combined with walking (3 times per week); isoflavone intake (75 mg of isoflavones conjugates per day); and isoflavone combined with walking. The subjects were classified by equol status (producers or nonproducers) as identified using production of equol from daidzein in fecal culture. Bone mineral density (BMD), body composition, and serum concentrations of isoflavones were assessed. Serum high-density lipoprotein cholesterol concentration significantly increased (6.1%, P = .03), and fat mass in the whole body significantly decreased (-4.3%, P = .0003) from the baseline in the combined intervention group. There were no significant differences in BMD between baseline and postintervention in any of the treatment groups. However, the percent changes in BMD in equol producers were -0.53% and +0.13% in the sub-whole body and total hip, respectively. This was significantly different compared with -1.35 and -1.77 for the sub-whole body and total hip, respectively, in nonproducers in the isoflavone group (P = .049 and .040, respectively). The mean serum equol concentration was significantly higher in equol producers than in nonproducers in the isoflavone groups, but not in the placebo group. The combination of isoflavones and exercise exhibited favorable effects on serum lipid and body composition of postmenopausal women. The findings of this study suggest that the preventive effects of isoflavones on bone loss depend on the individual's intestinal flora for equol production.
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