Menopause Alert! Hand’s Up If You'd Like Less Hot Flushes?Dec 06, 2022
As Christmas approaches changing your diet is probably the last thing you want to think about, but having just updated Menopause Food Facts for the British Dietetic Association, a couple of research papers really stood out. Both of these show that it’s worth making a few changes to your eating habits to help change both the frequency and severity of hot flushes from the perimenopause through to post-menopause years.
Surely that has to be worth a try, and why wait when you can start now?
Let me explain. Back in 2012, the US Women’s Health Initiative ran a huge 12-month long study involving 17,473 postmenopausal women, aged between 50 to 79 years who were not using any hormone replacement therapy (HRT) to find out whether changing diet could have an impact on hot flushes. Some of the women were asked to follow a low-fat dietary pattern (20% of energy from fat) and to increase their intake of fruits and vegetables (5 servings every day) and whole grains (6 servings every day) for 12 months. This is quite a change from typical western diets – for example in the UK, women typically consume around 34% of their energy from fat and only one third manage to eat their 5-a-day. To help them get to the right diet, the women attended a series of dietitian-led group education sessions. The other women in the study were simply given a standard government written healthy eating guide. Although not intended as a weight loss diet, body weight was monitored alongside menopausal symptoms. At the end of the year the outcomes were clear for the two groups.
Compared to the other women those following the study diet:
- made positive changes to their diets and were eating more dietary fibre (17.9 vs. 14.9 g/day), more fruit (2.5 vs. 1.8 servings/day), more vegetables (2.6 vs. 2.1 servings/day) and had a lower intake of total fat (24.7 vs. 34.9% of kcal)
- were three times more likely to have lost weight
- were significantly more likely to be free of flushes and night sweats after 1 year
- and those who had lost 10% of their bodyweight were even more likely to be flush free
The study showed that eating a healthier diet, with more whole grains, fruits, and vegetables and less fat was effective in reducing hot flushes and increased the odds of becoming free of hot flushes and night sweats over a year. Losing weight while eating this healthy diet was even more effective.
A recently published study took the idea of a healthier diet one step further and asked women to eat a low-fat plant-based diet and to include ½ cup (86g) of soya beans every day for 12 weeks. This is the second paper published by the WAVS trial (The Women's Study for the Alleviation of Vasomotor Symptoms (WAVS)). The result were impressive with a 79% reduction in total hot flushes and 84% reduction in more severe hot flushes (from nearly five per day to fewer than one per day).
This second study shows that if you are prepared to totally overhaul your diet to a plant-based approach you can get really great results, but the first study showed that even more modest dietary changes can have noticeable and significant effects. The question is, how much change are you prepared to make to get rid of those pesky hot sweats?
Its Christmas and a time of year when we eat, drink and are merry. However, there are things that you can do without spoiling the fun, like switching to a higher fibre breakfast cereal, a wholemeal bread or trying brown rice when cooking at home. It can also be easy to include one more piece of fruit and one more portion of vegetables or salad each day.
Why not find out more in our menopause nutrition workshops at nutrition4.co.uk? We can also offer workshops to your employees at special rates - just ask.
The studies referred to are:
Kroenke CH et al (2012) Effects of a dietary intervention and weight change on vasomotor symptoms in the Women’s Health Initiative. Menopause 19: 980–988
Barnard ND et al (2022) A dietary intervention for vasomotor symptoms of menopause: a
randomized, controlled trial. Menopause, Vol. 30, No. 1, 2023
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