Weight loss that occurs by following a low-fat, high fruit and vegetable diet may help to reduce or eliminate hot flashes and night sweats associated with menopause, according to a new study in the current issue of Menopause.
The Women's Health Initiative study of 17,473 women found that women on a diet low in fat and high in whole grains, fruit and vegetables, who had menopausal symptoms, who were not taking hormone replacement therapy, and who lost weight (10 or more pounds or 10 or more percent of their baseline body weight), were more likely to reduce or eliminate hot flashes and night sweats after one year, compared to those in a control group who maintained their weight.
Many women experience hot flashes at some point before or after menopause, when their estrogen levels are declining. Hot flashes and night sweats are thought to be caused by a complex interaction that involves fluctuating hormone levels, the hypothalamus region of the brain that regulates body temperature, brain chemicals and receptors, and the body's blood vessels and sweat glands.
Although previous research has shown that high body weight and weight gain are associated with menopausal hot flashes and night sweats, this study is the among the first -- and the largest to date -- to analyze whether weight loss on a diet designed to reduce fat and increase whole grains, fruit and vegetable intake might ameliorate symptoms.
"Since most women tend to gain weight with age, weight loss or weight gain prevention may offer a viable strategy to help eliminate hot flashes and night sweats associated with menopause", said the study authors. Greater body fat provides insulation that may hinder heat loss, and hot flashes and night sweats provide a way to dissipate that heat.
The Women's Health Initiative Dietary Modification trial enrolled a diverse group of 48,835 post-menopausal women between 1993 and 1998 at 40 United States clinical centers to evaluate the effects of a low-fat dietary pattern on heart disease, breast and colorectal cancer, and fracture in post-menopausal women.
The dietary intervention was aimed at reducing fat intake and increasing fruit, vegetable and whole grain intake. Although weight loss was not a goal, participants assigned to the intervention group lost on average 4.5 pounds between baseline and year one, compared to the control group.
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