A plant-based diet may reduce hot flashes and promote weight loss

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A new study suggests that certain dietary changes, including increased soy consumption, may help reduce hot flashes during menopause and promote weight loss. Westend61/Getty Images
  • Hot flashes can be a common discomfort during menopause, but a new study suggests dietary changes can provide relief.
  • Researchers found that a low-fat, plant-based diet high in soy products was as effective as hormone replacement therapy in reducing hot flashes.
  • Participants who followed the dietary protocol also experienced weight loss.
  • The results suggest potential for dietary changes as a first-line treatment for hot flashes.
  • More research is still needed to understand the role of diet on hot flashes and other menopause-related symptoms..

Making dietary changes during menopause can be as effective as hormone replacement therapy in treating hot flashes without associated health risks.

This is according to a new study recently published in the journal Menopause by the North American Menopause Society.

According to the researchers, participants who adhered to a strictly plant-based, soy-rich diet saw an 88% reduction in their symptoms. In comparison, hormone replacement therapy is associated with a 70-90% reduction in hot flashes.

Additionally, participants also reduced their overall weight by an average of 8 pounds over 12 weeks.

“Our results reflect the diets of places around the world, such as pre-Westernized Japan and the modern Yucatán Peninsula, where a low-fat, plant-based diet, including soy, is more prevalent and where postmenopausal women experience fewer symptoms,” the lead researcher said. Dr. Neal Barnard, chair of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine and assistant professor at the George Washington University School of Medicine in a press release.

For the study, researchers followed 84 postmenopausal participants with two or more hot flashes per day for 12 weeks.

Subjects adhered to a plant-based diet rich in soy products by incorporating the following dietary changes:

  • avoiding animal products
  • reduction in overall fat intake
  • adding a daily serving of soy

Despite the reduction in hot flashes, the researchers admit they don’t fully understand why this particular dietary protocol was so effective.

They confirmed that the combination of each of the three elements listed above was essential in reducing the symptoms of hot flashes.

It’s also important to note that in the study, participants with fewer hot flashes ate significantly less fat and more fiber, and they achieved this in just 12 weeks on a vegan diet that emphasized on soybeans.

Additionally, the study did not prove or disprove that eating meat causes hot flashes, but rather that a low-fat, plant-based diet high in soy foods reduces hot flashes. heat and contributes to weight loss.

Amy Bragagnini, MS, RD, CSO, a women’s nutrition and oncology nutrition specialist at Trinity Health Lacks Cancer Center in Michigan and a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, told Healthline that she sees many clients who are willing to try anything to reduce their hot flashes.

“Clients tell me that hot flashes disrupt their sleep, cause irritability and lead to profuse sweating at work,” she said.

Her recommendations for reducing hot flashes with diet include:

  • increase consumption of whole soy foods
  • increased consumption of fermented soy products
  • limit processed foods
  • reducing alcohol, caffeine, and sugar, which can also negatively impact sleep cycles

Kristin Kirkpatrick, MS, RDN, nutritionist and author of “Skinny Liver,” said menopause and the accompanying hot flashes can impair blood vessel function in some people.

“This is one of the reasons postmenopausal women are often at higher risk for heart disease than premenopausal women,” Kirkpatrick told Healthline. “Therefore, it is often recommended to eliminate foods associated with deteriorating blood vessel health.”

Kirkpatrick added that foods containing isoflavones, such as whole soybeans, may also be helpful for blood vessel health.

Dietitian Julie Cunningham, RD, whose clients with type 2 diabetes also experience menopausal symptoms, explained that isoflavones in soy foods (and some legumes like chickpeas) mimic estrogen in the body. .

Although more research is needed to understand how soy isoflavones affect menopausal symptoms, Cunningham offered a possible explanation:

“Since it’s a drop in estrogen during menopause that causes hot flashes, eating these foods effectively convinces the body that there’s plenty of estrogen circulating in the blood, so there’s no need for hot flashes,” she told Healthline.

Although the new study suggests that a plant-based diet can reduce hot flashes, nutrition experts say that doesn’t mean animal products should be avoided altogether.

“Lean meat can be a rich source of protein and vitamins [and] minerals,” Bragagnini said.

At the same time, not all meals should contain meat either, and increasing your intake of plant-based foods can provide a number of health benefits.

Bragagnini recommends swapping a meat starter for a vegetarian dish once or twice a week.

“To maintain a good relationship with food, we shouldn’t focus on ‘good’ or ‘bad’, but rather ask ourselves if this food will help or hinder my health and my menopausal symptoms,” Kirkpatrick said.

There are simple, everyday ways to adjust your diet to promote wellness and potentially relieve your menopausal symptoms.

According to Kirkpatrick, healthy dietary changes can help improve:

  • hormonal fluctuations
  • cholesterol level
  • sleep
  • bone health

Kirkpatrick said you could work to replace animal protein with plant protein by evaluating the number of servings of fruits and vegetables you get in your diet and increasing it if you’re eating less than 7 handfuls a day.

She added that a moderate carb approach could help regulate blood sugar during postmenopause.

“When you have fruits and vegetables, focus on those with a lower glycemic index,” she said.

High in estrogen, consuming soy may help reduce hot flashes, according to research, and even provide additional health benefits.

As a general rule, opt for minimally processed soy foods whenever possible. You may also prefer soy products labeled non-GMO.

If you want to add more soy to your diet, there are a number of soy foods you can try, but it’s a good idea to check with your doctor or dietitian first, especially if you have a soy problem. underlying health.

Edamame (soybeans)

Bragagnini suggests adding edamame as an appetizer to any meal.

“This delicious, green vegetable isn’t terribly intimidating, and because of that, your family is more likely to try it,” Bragagnini says.

Try steaming the edamame in the shell, then sprinkle it with a little salt.

Soy milk

Bragagnini said soy milk is another great option for getting a serving of soy into your diet.

“Consider combining soy milk with fresh or frozen fruit and blend it together for a great and delicious smoothie,” she says.

soy nuts

Soy nuts are a great option for a quick protein-rich snack.

“I keep soy nuts at my desk and often snack on them in the afternoon when I crave something high in protein and fiber,” Bragagnini says.

New research suggests that a low-fat, plant-based, emphasis on soy products, may help alleviate symptoms of hot flashes associated with menopause and lead to loss of weight.

Despite the positive results, however, larger studies are still needed to determine whether this dietary protocol could be considered a first-line treatment or a substitute for hormone replacement therapy.

If you’re going through menopause or post-menopause and want to switch to a plant-based diet, it may help to gradually reduce your intake of meat products rather than changing everything all at once.

Anyone can benefit from eating more plants. Remember, it’s a good idea to consult your doctor or dietitian before making any major changes to your diet.

“The take home message is almost always, ‘eat a lot more vegetables and a lot less fat,'” Cunningham said.

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