Phytochemicals are non-nutrient bioactive compounds occurring in plants and food, which
possess the capacity to modulate one or more metabolic processes or pathways in the body, resulting to
health benefits and promotion of well-being. The interest of the scientific community continues to
grow, powered by progressive research efforts to identify properties and potential applications of bioactive
substances, and coupled with public interest and consumer demand. However, the natural derivation
of these compounds is not a feature of harmlessness, over that of therapeutic efficacy, to which
is also added the absence of post-marketing monitoring which does not allow to evaluate the occurrence
of adverse effects related to the use of their related products.
The literature is particularly rich of studies concerning phytochemicals as environmental estrogens,
which result in infertility, reproductive abnormalities, and tumors but also in some endocrine-related
health effects. Nevertheless, further studies have been performed to better understand the bioavailability,
pharmacokinetics and mode of action of these compounds which seems to go beyond their ability
to bind to oestrogen receptors and either stimulate or inhibit the activity of endogenous oestrogens,
highlighting new interesting target molecules and signaling pathways. The present review summarizes
the latest developments and knowledge concerning the assessment of endocrine activities of dietary
phytochemicals focusing on pharmacological aspects.