Genistein Protects Female Nonobese Diabetic Mice from Developing Type 1 Diabetes When Fed a Soy- and Alfalfa-free Diet

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The objective of this study was to determine the effects of the phytoestrogen genistein (GEN) on the time of onset and/or the incidence of type 1 diabetes (T1D) in female nonobese diabetic (NOD) mice, when administered GEN by gavage once every day for up to 180 days. Five groups of mice (approximately 24 animals/group; 6-7 weeks of age) were included: naive control, vehicle control (25 mM Na2CO3 in water), and 3 GEN treatment groups (2 mg/kg, 6 mg/kg, and 20 mg/kg). Mice were maintained on a soy- and alfalfa-free diet (5K96) during the study and were monitored for blood glucose changes every week. When compared to the vehicle control, exposure to 2-mg/kg GEN produced significant decreases ranging from 55 to 79% in the total incidences of diabetes (blood glucose ≥ 250 mg/dl) and severe diabetes (blood glucose ≥ 400 mg/dl) starting at week 14 of the study. However, during the later stages of the study (i.e., after week 23), the 2-mg/kg dose had no effect on disease incidence. In animals treated with 6-mg/kg and 20-mg/kg GEN, significant decreases in the total incidence of diabetes were observed starting at week 16, while the incidence of severe diabetes was significantly decreased with the changes being observed initially at weeks 18 and 17 for the 6-mg/kg and 20-mg/kg GEN treatment groups, respectively. Several lines of evidence, including histopathological analysis, suggested that GEN protected the pancreas from autoimmune destruction. However, this protective effect of GEN was absent when female NOD mice were maintained on NTP-2000 rodent diet, which contained 5% soybean meal and 7.5% alfalfa meal (the total concentrations of phytoestrogens ranged between 95 and 134 mg/kg). In summary, oral dosing of GEN reduced the incidence and increased the time to onset of T1D in female NOD mice but only when fed a soy- and alfalfa-free diet.

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