To examine the association between urinary excretion of isoflavonoids and risk of type 2 diabetes (T2D), we conducted a nested case–control study among 1111 T2D pairs identified during 1995–2008 in the Nurses’ Health Study (NHS) and NHSII, who were free of diabetes, CVD and cancer at urine sample collection. Urinary excretion of daidzein and genistein, as well as their metabolites O-desmethylangolensin (O-DMA), dihydrogenistein (DHGE) and dihydrodaidzein (DHDE) was assayed using liquid chromatography MS. Self-reported T2D incident cases were confirmed using a validated questionnaire. Higher urinary excretion of daidzein and genistein was associated with a lower risk of T2D in the combined cohorts. Comparing extreme tertiles of the urinary markers, the OR of T2D were 0·71 (95 % CI 0·55, 0·93) for daidzein and 0·74 (95 % CI 0·56, 0·97) for genistein, although the test for linear trend was not significant for genistein (P
trend=0·03 and 0·15, respectively). DMA, DHDE and DHGE were non-significantly associated with a lower T2D risk. The inverse association of daidzein with T2D risk was stronger among post-menopausal women who did not use hormone replacement therapy (P
interaction=0·001): the OR was 0·58 (95 % CI 0·34, 0·97) comparing extreme tertiles among these women. In conclusion, urinary excretion of isoflavones was associated with a lower T2D risk in US women, especially among post-menopausal women who did not use hormone. Further research is warranted to replicate these observations among western populations with similarly low overall isoflavone intake.