Health: Switching to a soy-rich vegan diet causes an 84 per cent drop in menopausal hot flushes

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Going vegan can relieve hot flushes: Switching to a plant-based, soy-rich diet causes an 84 per cent drop in troublesome menopausal symptoms — without drugs

  • George Washington University experts recruited 38 postmenopausal women
  • Half were put on a low-fat, plant-based diet including cooked soy beans daily
  • Of these, 59% stopped having moderate-to-severe hot flushes within 12 weeks
  • The team think the benefits stem from the ‘isoflavone’ compounds in the beans
  • The finding may offer an alternative to traditional, oestrogen-based medications
  • Long used to treat hot flushes, such drugs have now been linked to breast cancer

Women who switch to a vegan diet rich in soy during menopause could reduce the number of hot flushes they experience by up to 84 per cent without using drugs.

This is the conclusion of a study by researchers led from the George Washington University following tests of the diet involving 38 women over 12 week period.

Not only did the average number of moderate-to-severe hot flushes fall from five to one per day on the diet, but they were totally eliminated in 59 per cent of subjects.

The tested diet featured no hormone medications or extracts, the team explained — but instead combined a low-fat plant-based diet with cooked soy beans.

It is estimated that around four-fifths of postmenopausal women suffer from hot flushes, which manifest first as a heat welling up in the chest.

They typically lead to sweating, redness of the face and a rapid heartbeat — with attacks usually lasting from two to thirty minutes and repeating throughout the day.

While oestrogen-based medications were long given to treat these symptoms, they have recently been found to increase the risk of conditions including breast cancer.

Women who switch to a vegan diet rich in soy during menopause could reduce the number of hot flushes they experience (as pictured) by up to 84 per cent without drugs (stock image)

Women who switch to a vegan diet rich in soy during menopause could reduce the number of hot flushes they experience (as pictured) by up to 84 per cent without drugs (stock image)

FULL OF SOY BEANS 

Alongside a dramatic reduction in hot flushes, many of the participants given the soy-rich diet also reported improvements in their mood, overall energy and sexual symptoms.

‘This was basically a lifesaver for me. I’ve got my quality of life back,’ said one anonymous study participant.

Another said: “I am sleeping better, and my hot flashes diminished tremendously.” 

Furthermore, several of the participants said the diet led to better digestion and significant weight loss.

‘Before you jump to any kind of medication, I would try this route, because it’s easy,’ one subject said.

 Anybody can do it,’  she concluded.

‘This is a game changer for women aged 45 and over,’ said paper author and clinical researcher Neal Barnard of the George Washington University.

‘Most of whom we now know can get prompt relief from the most severe and troubling menopause symptoms without drugs,’ he added.

In their study, Professor Barnard and colleagues recruited 38 postmenopausal women who reported experiencing two or more hot flushes every day.

The team divided the participants into two groups, one of which stuck to their usual diet while the other switched to low-fat, vegan diet — one which had half-a-cup of cooked soybeans on the menu daily — for a total of 12 weeks.

‘Previous studies have shown that soy could be beneficial, so we decided to put a diet change to the test,’ explained paper author Hana Kahleova of the Washington DC-based Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine.

Each subject logged the frequency and severity of their hot flushes in a mobile app, while their other vasomotor, psychosocial, physical, and sexual symptoms were assessed using the ‘Menopause Specific Quality of Life Questionnaire’.

In addition, each woman was given a digital self-calibrating scale with which they could track changes to their body weight on a daily basis, and took part in weekly Zoom calls to catch up with the research team.

Overall, the group that went on the soy-rich vegan diet reported a 79 per cent average decrease in the total number of hot flushes they experiences — and an 84 per cent reduction in moderate-to-severe episodes in particular. 

‘By the end of the study, the majority [59 per cent] of women on a plant-based diet rich in soy reported that they no longer experienced moderate-to-extreme hot flashes at all,’ Dr Kahleova explained.

‘They experienced significant improvements in their quality of life.’ 

Similar changes were not observed by women in the control group, who all stuck with their usual diets.

The researchers recruited 38 postmenopausal women who reported experiencing two or more hot flushes every day. The team divided the participants into two groups, one of which stuck to their usual diet while the other switched to low-fat, vegan diet — one which had half-a-cup of cooked soybeans, like pictured, on the menu daily — for a total of 12 weeks

The researchers recruited 38 postmenopausal women who reported experiencing two or more hot flushes every day. The team divided the participants into two groups, one of which stuck to their usual diet while the other switched to low-fat, vegan diet — one which had half-a-cup of cooked soybeans, like pictured, on the menu daily — for a total of 12 weeks

The team suspect that the beneficial effects of soy might stem from the so-called isoflavones they contain — compounds which out gut bacteria metabolise into equol, a nonsteroidal oestrogen compound known.

Previous studies have both linked equol to a reduction in both the incidence and severity of hot flushes — as well as indicated that those on vegan or vegetarian diets produce higher levels of the compound.

The full findings of the study were published in Menopause: The Journal of the North American Menopause Society

MENOPAUSE EXPLAINED

The menopause occurs when a woman stops having periods and can no longer fall pregnant naturally.

It is a natural part of ageing, which occurs in women between 45 and 55 years old. 

However 1 in 100 women can experience menopause before the age of 40, which is known as premature menopause or premature ovarian insufficiency.

Symptoms often include hot flushes, night sweats, low mood, reduced sex drive, vaginal dryness, an increase in facial hair and difficulty sleeping.

According to NHS advice, symptoms can begin months or even years before your periods stop and last around four years after your last period. 

Premature or early menopause can occur at any age, and in many cases, there’s no clear cause. 

Source: NHS 

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