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Otsuka product development storiesEQUELLE Product story

Empowering women to shine all the time

Women during and after the midlife transitional period may experience many changes in their bodies. EQUELLE contains equol, which is derived from soybeans and helps to offer relief during and after this challenging time. With this food supplement, Otsuka offers a new way to support health and beauty.

Discovering the world’s first*1 equol-producing bacteria

In 1985, Otsuka Pharmaceutical participated in the World Health Organization’s CARDIAC Study, an international collaborative research study on cardiovascular diseases and alimentary comparison. With the goal of understanding the relationship between diet and longevity, Otsuka invested years in exploring the potential of soybeans. While pursuing research into isoflavones found in soybeans, we discovered that equol, a compound produced from soybean isoflavones by naturally-occurring bacteria in the intestines, is closely associated with feminine health.

Women's health is an important topic at Saga Nutraceuticals Research Institute, which leads the world in research on the efficacy and safety of equol.

This research began in 1996; at the time, it wasn’t known what these bacteria were. Six years later, in what was a world first, our researchers identified Lactococcus 20-92, a lactic acid bacteria that produces equol when fermented on soybean germ. With our pharmaceutical group and affiliated firms in the U.S., we carried out numerous trials. In 2014, EQUELLE, an equol-containing food product, was launched in Japan. This product is used to support women with the accompanying physical and mental changes during and after the midlife transitional period.

Building awareness among women

Today, measures such as The Act on Promotion of Women's Participation and Advancement in the Workplace, and systems for supporting nursing mothers, have increased women’s representation in the Japanese workforce. However, disruptions to the women’s natural hormonal rhythms can impede everyday life, especially at work, where many women may struggle to advance.*2 Some women feel anxious about their inability to control when and where their condition may fluctuate, or how to handle it when it does.
One reason for this is that some women lack a proper understanding of feminine health, including menstruation cycles. Otsuka Pharmaceutical believes that women should have every opportunity to perform at their best. It is our belief that more people should be aware of the physical and mental changes that occur at various life stages, and that they should be better prepared to deal with them. This conviction led to our launching of nationwide seminars on the subject of women’s health.

  1. 1Internal investigation
  2. 2Project report published in Japanese by Hormone Care Project


An equol-containing food made by fermenting soybeans with lactic acid bacteria, contributing to the health and beauty of women in their midlife transition period experiencing many changes in their bodies.

What is EQUOL?

Equol is a metabolite produced from the soy isoflavone daidzein by the intestinal bacteria Lactococcus 20- 92. More powerful than daidzein as is, the metabolite is produced when soybeans are consumed, and contributes to women's health and beauty. Although it has long been reported that soybeans are beneficial to women's health, data shows that only about 50% of Japanese women can produce equol, meaning that half of the population do not receive its benefits even if they do eat soybeans.