London, September 2 : British surveyors have discovered that high levels of oestrogen-like chemicals are present in far more foods and drinks that had previously been realised.
Gunter Kuhnle of the MRC Dunn Human Nutrition Unit in Cambridge says that such chemicals have been found to be present in a host of foods such as beer, wine and walnut.
The researcher has revealed that the finding is based on a survey of dozens of foods and beverages, reports New Scientist magazine.
An extremely sensitive chemical technique called mass spectrometry was used for the study, the researcher adds.
While most previous surveys of foods and drinks focused on the presence of one kind of phytoestrogen, found in high levels in nuts and seeds called lignans, the researchers always ignored another kind called isoflavones.
Kuhnle says that it was while searching for isoflavones that the surveyors found that phytoestrogens were present in far more foods and drinks than previously thought.
Studies on the health effects of phytoestrogens have painted a mixed and muddled picture: while some suggest that the compounds protect against cancer, heart disease and the side-effects of the menopause, others link their high levels to an increased risk of breast cancer and male infertility.
The study appears in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.