Soy and its isoflavones are associated with a reduced risk of chronic disease. The mechanisms of action of isoflavones include their roles as weak estrogens, inhibitors of tyrosine kinase-dependent signal transduction processes and as cellular antioxidants. Although estrogen receptor beta binds genistein with an affinity close to that of 17beta-estradiol, it remains to be determined whether it is a mediator of genistein's activity in vivo. Genistein's inhibition of protein tyrosine kinases is not limited to direct effect on these kinases, but may result from alteration in kinase expression. Genistein is not a particularly good scavanger of cellular oxidants; however, it reacts vigorously with the prooxidant hypochlorous acid, produced by neutrophils as part of the inflammatory response. The chlorinated isoflavones may have altered biochemical and biological effects compared to their parent compounds and may provide increased protection against inflammatory disease.