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Coumestrol is a natural organic compound in the class of phytochemicals known as coumestans. It has garnered research interest because of its estrogenic activity and its prevalence in some foods, such as soybeans. Coumestrol was first identified by E. M. Bickoff in alfalfa in 1957. It has since be found in a variety of legumes, soybeans, brussels sprouts, and spinach. Clover and soybeans have the highest concentrations. Coumestrol is a phytoestrogen, mimicking the biological activity of estrogens. Coumestrol has about the same binding affinity for the ER-β estrogen receptor as 17β-estradiol, but much less affinity for 17α-estradiol, although the estrogenic potency of coumestrol at both receptors is much less than that of 17β-estradiol. The chemical shape of coumestrol orients its two hydroxy groups in the same position as the two hydroxy groups in estradiol, allowing it to inhibit the activity of aromatase and hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase. These enzymes are involved in the biosynthesis of steroid hormones, and inhibition of these enzymes results in the modulation of hormone production.
U.S. National Library of Medicine
A daidzein derivative occurring naturally in forage crops which has some estrogenic activity.
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