Soy is a unique dietary source of the isoflavones, genistein and daidzein. It has been part of the Southeast Asian diet for nearly five millenia, whereas consumption of soy in the United States and Western Europe has been limited to the 20th century. Heavy consumption of soy in Southeast Asian populations is associated with reduction in the rates of certain cancers and cardiovascular disease. Recent experimental evidence suggests that phytochemicals in soy are responsible for its beneficial effects, which may also include prevention of osteoporosis, a hereditary chronic nose bleed syndrome, and autoimmune diseases. Exposure of soy formula-fed infants to the potential estrogenizing effects of the isoflavones is limited by the first pass effect of the liver following the uptake of isoflavones from the gut. Several mechanisms of action of isoflavones have been proposed-both through estrogen-dependent and estrogen-independent pathways.