Phytoestrogens have been suggested as alternative treatment for postmenopausal osteoporosis. Equol, a metabolite of daidzein, has been shown to inhibit bone loss in ovariectomized mice and rats. However, whether or not equol influences the formation of bone has not yet been investigated. Therefore, we investigated the effect of equol on the proliferation and differentiation of rat primary osteoblasts and explored the involved mechanisms. Different equol concentrations significantly promoted the proliferation of osteoblasts after 48- and 72-h incubations.