Losing weight with a low-fat diet high in fruits and vegetables may help to reduce or eliminate menopausal hot flashes and night sweats, according to a new study.
The Women’s Health Initiative studied 17,473 women with menopausal symptoms who were not taking hormone replacement therapy and had lost 10 pounds or 10 or more percent of their baseline body weight.
Researchers found that a low-fat diet which also was high in whole grains, fruit and vegetables was more likely to reduce or eliminate hot flashes and night sweats after one year, compared to women in a control group who maintained their weight.
“While the mechanism is not completely understood, 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,” said Candyce Kroenke, ScD, MPH, a research scientist with the Kaiser Permanente Northern California Division of Research and lead author of the study.
Although previous research has shown that high body weight and weight gain are associated with 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 decrease 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 Bette Caan, DrPH, a research scientist with the Kaiser Permanente Northern California Division of Research and the senior author of the study.
She explained that greater body fat provides insulation that may hinder heat loss, and hot flashes and night sweats provide a way to dissipate that heat.
“Weight loss, especially loss of fat mass but not lean mass, might also help alleviate hot flashes and night sweats,” added Kroenke.
The investigators emphasize that further research is needed to better understand the relationship between diet, weight and hot flash or night sweat symptoms. They explain that the beneficial impact of a healthy diet alone regardless of weight change may also help decrease symptoms.
The study appears in the current issue of Menopause.
Source: Kaiser Permanente