Athletes have special needs when it comes to fuelling for optimized performance. Nutrition requirements are continuously shifting depending on the desired activity as well personal goals such as weight loss or improvements to lean muscle mass. There are a growing number of vegetarian athletes at the amateur and professional levels which raises discussions on whether or not an athlete is put at a disadvantage when choosing to eliminate some or a majority of animal derived foods. While there are several types of different vegetarian diets, including but not limited to lacto-, ovo- and macro-, we are going to discuss the
Xenoestrogens or “foreign estrogens” are chemical compounds that mimic the effects of estrogen in our bodies. Sources come from almost all walks of our modern lives, from industry, water sources, agriculture, clothing/ textiles, furniture, home cleaning products, make-up, skin care products, contraceptives, sunscreens, insecticides, food dyes, electrical oils, emulsifiers, paints; the list is almost endless. An additional list of common sources of xenoestrogens can be seen in Table 1.
While these chemicals have systemic effects in our bodies, there are certain areas that will concentrate xenoestrogens and demonstrate more significant issues due to exposure. These areas include the brain (pituitary, hypothalamus), thyroid, cardiovascular system, breasts, pancreas, ovaries, uterus and adipose tissue.
With targeted uptake of chemical concentration into these tissues, conditions such as hypothyroid, heart disease, diabetes, early puberty,
fibroids, endometriosis, fibrocystic breast disease, polycystic ovarian syndrome, and cancers have shown a relationship to xenoestrogen exposure. While there are numerous factors that will govern how significant these exposures will be to your health, here are five worth consideration:
1. Age at exposure – it has been shown that exposure to these chemicals in utero or as a child has the potential for more harm than if exposed as an adult.1
2. Latency due to exposure – there can be a time lag between exposure and manifestation of symptoms which may make it difficult to determine when or where the exposure occurred.
3. Mixed exposure – due to contamination of environment, we are rarely exposed to just one of these chemicals. Thus the effects of multiple xenoestrogens may be additive and possibly synergistic.2
4. Dose response dynamics – It has been shown that even minute exposure to these chemicals can cause endocrine or reproductive harm if they happen at a critical developmental stage.3 In addition, the strange cases of some of these chemical compounds are shown to be more toxic at low dose exposure rather than high dose exposures.4
5. Transgenerational (epigenetic) effects – perhaps the scariest to consider, these chemicals may not only affect those exposed, but the children born in subsequent generations.5
All of this information can be daunting and potentially depressing, however there are ways to minimize your exposure to xenoestrogens as can be seen in Table 2.
To utilize all of the ideas in this table may not be feasible, however any movement to apply even some of these suggestions will go a long way to reducing overall exposure level. In addition there are some natural compounds that will also work synergistically with these suggestions.
*Sulforaphane – This natural compound is found in cruciferous (green, leafy) vegetables and has been shown to protect our DNA from toxic chemicals, act as an anticancer agent, stimulate our immune system and activate our phase II liver detoxification enzymes.6
*Calcium-D-glucarate – Shown to inhibit the detoxification enzyme beta- glucaronidase, allowing toxins to be effectively neutralized and excreted from the body before they can do significant damage.7
Milk Thistle – A liver protector and detoxifier, this herbal remedy acts to neutralize the harmful chemicals we are exposed to and also protects the liver from damage even in cases of hepatitis and cancer.8
N-acetyl cysteine (NAC) –
The amino acid precursor to glutathione (body’s premier antioxidant) NAC
demonstrates protection against toxins and poisons.9
*Diindolylmethane (DIM) – Another natural compound from cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, DIM promotes the production of the healthy “2-OH” estrogen, and reduces the production of unhealthy “16-OH” estrogen. This aids in reducing the formation of reproductive system diseases and estrogen sensitive cancers.10
Hops – The active ingredient 8-prenylnaringenin (8PN), may help to reduce breast cancer metastasis as well as tumor formation.11
Choline – A natural compound
shown to support the liver via its contribution as a cofactor in the methylation process of detoxification – a key detoxification pathway
In addition, it may also be associated with the reduction of breast cancer.12
These natural compounds can be found in the AOR products Liver Support and Estro Adapt.
In our modern world, chemical exposure is part of life. If we can make conscious decisions to limit our xenoestrogen exposure as best we can by making clean choices with our diet, how we clean and care for our bodies and our homes, as well as by utilizing some natural compounds as mentioned above to assist in detoxification, we limit our total chemical load and thereby reduce the potential for complications with our health.
1. Barker D. The developmental origins of adult disease. Eur J Epidemiol. 2003;18:733–736.
2. Crews D et al. Animal models for the study of the effects of mixtures, low doses, and the embryonic environment on the action of endocrine disrupting chemicals. Pure and Applied Chemistry, SCOPE/IUPAC Project Implications of Endocrine Active Substances for Humans and Wildlife. 2003;75:2305–2320.
3. Sheehan D et al. No threshold dose for estradiol-induced sex reversal of turtle embryos: how little is too much? Environ Health Perspect. 1999; 107:155–159.
4. Vom Saal F et al. Chapel Hill Bisphenol A Expert Panel Consensus Statement: integration of mechanisms, effects in animals and potential to impact human health at current levels of exposure. Reprod Toxicol. 2007;24:131–138.
5. Anway M et al. Epigenetic trans-generational actions of endocrine disruptors. Endocrinology. 2006;147:S43–S49.
6. Shapiro T et al. Safety, Tolerance, and Metabolism of Broccoli Sprout Glucosinolates and Isothiocyanates: A Clinical Phase I Study. Nutrition and Cancer. 2006;55(1): 53-62.
7. Heerdt A et al. Calcium glucarate as a chemopreventive agent in breast cancer. Isr J Med Sci. 1995; 31(2-3): 101-5.
8. Fried M et al. Effect of silymarin (milk thistle) on liver disease in patients with chronic hepatitis C who failed interferon therapy: a randomized, placebo-controlled trial. JAMA. 2012;308(3):274–282.
9. Manov I et al. Acetaminophen hepatotoxicity and mechanisms of its protection by N-acetylcysteine: a study of Hep3B cells. Exp Toxicol Pathol. 2002;53(6):489-500.
10. Hong C et al. 3,3′-Diindolylmethane (DIM) induces a G1 cell cycle arrest in human breast cancer cells that is accompanied by Sp1-mediated activation of p21WAF1/CIP1 expression. Carcinogenesis.2002;23(8)1297-1305.
11. Miligan S et al. The endocrine activities of 8-prenylnaringenin and related hop (Humulus lupulus L.) flavonoids. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism. 2000; 85(12): 4912-4915.
12. Faseb J. Choline metabolism and risk of breast cancer in a population-based study. 2008 Jun;22(6):2045-52.