Background Current research on the relationship between phytoestrogens and mortality has been inconclusive. We explored the relationship between genistein, a phytoestrogen, and mortality in a large cohort representative of the United States population. Methods Data were analyzed from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) from 1999-2010. Normalized urinary genistein (nUG) was analyzed as a log-Transformed continuous variable and in quartiles. Mortality data were obtained from the National Death Index and matched to the NHANES participants. Survival analyses were conducted using the Kaplan-Meier analysis. Cox proportional hazard models were constructed for all-cause and cause-specific mortality without and with adjustment for potential confounding variables. Results Of 11,497 participants, 944 died during the 64,443 person-years follow-up. The all-cause mortality rate was significantly lower in the lowest quartile compared to the highest quartile (incidence rate ratio = 2.14, 95%CI = 1.76 to 2.60). Compared to the lowest quartile, the highest quartile had significantly higher adjusted all-cause (HR = 1.57, 95%CI = 1.23 to 2.00), cardiovascular (HR = 1.67, 95%CI = 1.04 to 2.68), and other-cause (HR = 1.85, 95% CI = 1.33 to 2.57) mortality. Conclusion We found that high urinary genistein levels were associated with increased risk of all-cause, cardiovascular, and other-cause mortality. This is contrary to popular opinion on the health benefits of genistein and needs further research.
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