Controlling obesity with low fat food can help eliminate
menopause symptoms, according to a new study.
A Women's Health Initiative (WHI) study carried out on 17,473 women found that in
those women who brought about weight loss, by consuming less fat (20% of total
calories) and eating more fruits, veggies and grain, are able to control their
menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes and night sweat after a year, in
comparison to controls who did not lose weight.
The WHI was not a
weight-loss study, but the biggest reduction in menopause symptoms occurred in
women in whom weight loss occurred. Women who complained of severe symptoms
found relief when they lost 22 pounds while those with mild symptoms found
relief even if they lost 10 pounds.
Hot flashes, which are
a symptom of menopause, are experienced by pre menopausal and menopausal women.
The complete mechanism is little understood, but hot flashes are believed to be
caused by a complex interaction involving fluctuating hormone (estrogen)
levels, the hypothalamus (that regulates body temperature), brain chemicals,
brain receptors, blood vessels and sweat glands.
Earlier studies have
shown that weight gain and increased BMI are linked to increased menopause
symptoms. This study made an attempt at understanding how a reduction in
weight, brought about by a dietary change, helps to control the symptoms.
However, during the study it was noticed that the menopausal symptoms were also
controlled in women who lost weight without any change in their diet.
Most women tend to put
on weight when they age and menopause.. Increased body fat acts as insulation
that could prevent heat loss while hot flashes and night sweats are mechanisms
adopted by the body to dissipate that heat. Estrogens are produced from body
fat after menopause and this may also be linked to hot flashes in menopausal
Therefore, it was considered appropriate to look
into the possibilities of dietary change bringing about weight control and
ameliorating the symptoms of menopause. The investigators are of the opinion that
a healthy diet alone, comprising of plenty of fruits, veggies and grains, is
capable of bringing about symptom relief.
The scientists emphasize that further research
is required to establish the link between diet, weight and menopause symptoms
such as night sweats and hot flashes.
Until such time it
would be safe to eat healthy and keep one's weight in check through diet and
The study, which was carried out under senior
research scientist Bette J. Caan appeared in the current issue of Menopause.