The effects of dietary isoflavone supplementation using a purified extract of red clover containing approximately biochanin A 26 mg, formononetin 16 mg, daidzein 0.5 mg and genistein 1 mg per tablet at doses of one or two tablets per day were compared to placebo in a three-period, randomised, double blind, ascending dose study in 66 post menopausal women with plasma cholesterol levels between 5.0 and 9.0 mmol/l. Each treatment period lasted 4 weeks and a further nine women received placebo for the full 12-week period. All women consumed a low isoflavone diet for 2 weeks preceding the commencement of the study and for the 12-week study period. Urinary isoflavone excretion was very low in subjects receiving placebo but increased in a dose-dependent manner during therapy with one and two of isoflavone tablets. Dietary supplementation with isoflavones did not significantly alter total plasma cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, HDL cholesterol or plasma triglyceride levels. However, inverse correlations were found between urinary genistein excretion and plasma triglyceride levels and between urinary O-DMA excretion (an isoflavone metabolite) and plasma triglyceride levels in subjects receiving one isoflavone tablet, suggesting a weak relationship between isoflavone intake and plasma triglycerides which may be influenced by individual differences in isoflavone absorption or metabolism. The results suggest that isoflavone phytoestrogens from red clover in the proportions and quantities studied do not significantly alter plasma lipids in post menopausal women with moderately elevated plasma cholesterol levels. (C) 2000 Elsevier Science Ireland Ltd.