Red clover extract, advertised as an alternative to hormone therapy, offered menopausal women no more relief from hot flashes than a placebo, according to a study published last week in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
The new study said interest in red clover extract stemmed in part from reports that Asian women suffer fewer hot flashes and other menopausal symptoms because their diets are rich in isoflavones, natural compounds found in soy products and legumes such as chickpeas.
In this trial, 250 menopausal women experiencing at least five hot flashes a day were given one of two isoflavone products made from red clover extract -- Promensil or Rimostil -- or a placebo. All of the women experienced a comparable decline in hot flashes of between 34 percent and 41 percent, though Promensil, reduced them more quickly.
"Although the study provides some evidence for a biological effect of Promensil, neither supplement had a clinically significant effect on hot flashes or other menopausal symptoms when compared with placebo," the report said.
Novogen Ltd, the Australia-based maker of Promensil and Rimostil that funded the study, said previous studies showed women taking a placebo had symptoms decline by no more than 20 percent. But a Duke University reproductive endocrinologist, Dr. Claude Hughes, said in a telephone interview that the placebo effect can vary widely in such studies of menopausal symptoms.
Hughes said he often starts his menopausal patients with diets rich in soy foods, such as tofu, then tries isoflavone extracts, then moves on to hormone replacement therapy.
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