Higher intake of phytoestrogens by expectant mothers is associated with a reduced risk of delivering infants with hypospadias, according to a new report.

In a study, mothers whose daily total phytoestrogen intake was in the 90th percentile or higher had a 30% decreased risk of having a child with hypospadias compared with mothers were in the 11th to 89th percentile of total intake in adjusted analyses. High intake of some specific phytoestrogens, such as daidzein, genistein, glycetin, and secoisolariciresinol, as well as total isoflavones, and total lignans also were associated with a reduced risk of hypospadias. Lower intake of phytoestrogens, however, did not increase the risk of giving birth to a son with hypospadias.

The researchers, led by Suzan Carmichael, PhD, of Stanford University in Palo Alto, Calif., reported their findings online in the American Journal of Epidemiology, where they noted that their study is the first large-scale analysis of phytoestrogen intake and hypospadias.

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The analysis included data from mothers who gave birth to 1,250 infants with hypospadias and 3,118 mothers who did not (controls). All subjects had participated in the National Birth Defects Prevention Study, a multi-stage, population-based, case-control study.

Dr. Carmichael’s team noted that experimental data indicate that maternal exposures to estrogenic compounds may impact hypospadias risk by interfering with the production or action of fetal androgens, which are critical to normal urethral closure.