A new study found that a plant-based diet can help women to fight symptoms of menopause. According to researches, a vegan diet rich in soy can reduce moderate-to-severe hot flashes by 84%, from nearly five per day to fewer than one per day.
Nearly 60% of women during the 12-week study became free of moderate-to-severe hot flashes. In total, hot flashes (including mild ones) decreased by 79%. Many participants also reported improvements in mood, sexual symptoms and overall energy. A few women also noticed significant weight loss and better digestion.
The study called the WAVS trial--the Women's Study for the Alleviation of Vasomotor Symptoms was published by the North American Menopause Society and shows that diet changes can be much more potent for treating hot flashes, including night sweats, hot flashes, and flushes.
The researchers tested a combination of a low-fat plant-based diet plus half cup of ordinary soybeans added to a salad or soup each day without using any hormone medications or extracts.
"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," said Neal Barnard, MD, president of the Physicians Committee and adjunct professor at the George Washington University School of Medicine.
At least 80% of postmenopausal women suffer from hot flashes, reporting two or more hot flashes per day. Heat wells up from the chest, causing flushing, sweating, and chills, which don't let them sleep at night. Doctors usually prescribe estrogen-based medications, but these have been shown to increase the risk of breast cancer and other serious diseases. Isoflavone extracts from soybeans are not very effective.
The latest study proves that a low-fat vegan diet including a 1/2 cup of cooked soybeans reduces the frequency and severity of hot flashes.
"This was basically a lifesaver for me," a study participant said. "I've got my quality of life back." Another one added,"I am sleeping better, and my hot flashes diminished tremendously."
"Before you jump to any kind of medication, I would try this route, because it's easy," another woman said. "Anybody can do it."
The researchers claim that the effect may be a result of isoflavones that appear in soy products. They can be digested by gut bacteria into equol--a nonsteroidal compound which can help reduce the hot flashes. Previously, some studies have also shown that people following vegetarian or vegan diets produce higher levels of equol. The latest study shows that the results are even better when the plant-based diet is combined with soy.