Women who eat diets high in fruit, certain vegetables, pasta and red wine are
less likely to have hot flashes and night sweats during menopause, a new study
from Australia suggests.
Researchers found that of about 6 000 women followed over nine years, those
who ate a lot of strawberries, pineapple and melon and most closely followed a
Mediterranean-style diet were about 20% less likely to report those common
At the same time, menopausal women who ate high-sugar, high-fat diets were
23% more likely to experience hot flashes and night sweats during the study. The study can't prove certain foods prevent or trigger hot flashes,
researchers said. And it's one of the first yet to tie general dietary patterns - not just
certain supplements - to menopause-related symptoms.
"The study is well done, but I wouldn't get so excited about it, especially
because we don't know why," said Teresa Fung, a nutrition researcher at Simmons
College in Boston. "We don't know the biologic mechanisms behind it."
Researchers surveyed 6 040 women, age 50 to 55, about what foods they ate and
how often as well as if they smoked, drank or exercised. All of those women went
through natural menopause - meaning not brought on by uterus-removing surgery,
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At the start of the study, 58% of participants reported having hot flashes,
night sweats or both. At that point and over the next nine years, women who ate
fruit and the components of a Mediterranean diet - in this case garlic, salad
greens, pasta and red wine - reported fewer hot flashes, after accounting for
their other lifestyle habits.
However, vegetables in general, as well as meat and dairy, were not
associated with either a higher or lower chance of having menopausal symptoms,
Gerrie-Cor Herber-Gast and Gita Mishra from the University of Queensland wrote
in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
Hormone therapy is the only known effective treatment for hot flashes.
But since the drugs were linked to an increased risk of heart disease, stroke
and breast cancer in the Women's Health Initiative study, researchers and
affected women alike have been searching for alternatives.
It's possible that low-fat, high-fibre diets may help stabilise oestrogen
levels and ease hot flashes and night sweats, Herber-Gast and Mishra speculated.
Or, eating a Mediterranean-style diet may keep blood sugar within the optimum
range, which could also lower a woman's chance of bothersome symptoms, they
"We don't really have enough studies to make a blanket recommendation yet,"
said Fung, who wasn't involved in the new research.
However, she added, "We don't necessarily need to know why (this may work)
before we do it, especially for something that's healthy to begin with."
Fung said because of all the changes - both physical and psychological - that
happen during menopause, it may already be a natural time for women to think
about improving their diet and general health.