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Hot flashes making you miserable? A low-fat plant-based diet with a dash of soybeans can help. A new study has found that it reduces moderate-to-severe hot flashes by 84% to fewer than one per day, down from about five, in postmenopausal women.
During the 12-week study, published by the North American Menopause Society in the journal Menopause, 60% of participants in its intervention group became completely free of moderate-to-severe hot flashes. The study, called the WAVS trial—the Women’s Study for the Alleviation of Vasomotor Symptoms, also found that overall hot flashes decreased by almost 80% in women on a low-fat plant-based diet that included soy. The study included women with postmenopausal hot flashes between 40-65 years of age.
“This is a game changer for women aged 45 and over, most of whom we now know can get prompt relief from the most severe and troubling menopause symptoms without drugs,” says lead researcher Neal Barnard, MD, president, Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) and adjunct professor, George Washington University School of Medicine.
For the study, researchers did not use hormone medications or extracts; they instead used a combination of a low-fat plant-based diet and half cup of soybeans added to a salad or soup every day. Study participants also reported improvements in sexual symptoms, mood, and overall energy, PCRM said in a statement.
“This is a game changer for women aged 45 and over, most of whom we now know can get prompt relief from the most severe and troubling menopause symptoms without drugs,” says lead researcher Neal Barnard.
Experts say that nearly 80% of postmenopausal women experience hot flashes, which can be extremely troublesome. Hot flashes are a sudden feeling of heat or warmth that start from the chest, causing flushing, sweating, or chills. Post menopausal women also experience symptoms like mood swings, irritability, vaginal dryness, insomnia, difficulty in concentration, headaches, stress, and incontinence.
Researchers concluded that soy may be effective in reducing hot flashes because of the presence of isoflavones, which the gut bacteria metabolises into equol. A nonsteroidal compound, Equol has been shown in some studies to reduce hot flashes. Older studies have also shown that people who are following vegetarian or vegan diets produce higher levels of equol.
“Previous studies have shown that soy could be beneficial, so we decided to put a diet change to the test. We believe that the combination is what is important,” said study author Hana Kahleova, MD, PhD, director of clinical research, PCRM.