Phytoestrogens are nonsteroidal plant-derived compounds found in various forms in humans and animal foods. Phytoestrogens bind with mammalian estrogen receptors (ER) as they are structurally like mammalian estrogen and alter multiple mechanisms and processes, causing several disorders and diseases. Studies in humans and animals have revealed that dietary phytoestrogens play a crucial role in preventing hormone-dependent diseases and disorders such as menopausal symptoms, osteoporosis, cancer, and heart disease. Despite the potential health benefits, phytoestrogens also have several adverse effects on the reproductive health of males and females. Phytoestrogens bind with ER, interfere with the hormonal regulation of the reproductive organs, and increase the propensity of infertility, abnormal estrus cycle, and anestrous. Phytoestrogens also alter prenatal and postnatal fetal development causing various developmental abnormalities. Several studies investigated the effects of phytoestrogen compounds on reproductive health using animals, humans, and in vitro culture models. Therefore, it is important to summarize these findings for future mitigation strategies against phytoestrogens. This review focuses on the impact of specific phytoestrogens on the reproductive health of males and females and the underlying mechanisms involved in the detrimental effects of various phytoestrogen compounds. Based on the evidence obtained from the literature, we also summarized the findings in the tabular form on different reproductive tissues in males and females, including prenatal and postnatal fetal development.
Keywords: Phytoestrogens, Genistein, Endogenous hormones, Reproduction