Menopausal women who lose weight by eating a low-fat diet that includes lots of whole grains, fruits and vegetables can reduce or even eliminate hot flashes, night sweats and other symptoms, according to a new study by the Kaiser Permanente Division of Research.
The findings, published in the current issue of the journal Menopause, are based on an analysis of 17,473 participants enrolled in the Women's Health Initiative. Kaiser investigators found women who lost at least 10 percent of their body weight while on such a diet – and were not taking hormone replacement therapy – dramatically cut or eliminated their menopausal symptoms after one year.
"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, a Kaiser research who helped lead the study.
Past studies have linked weight gain to hot flashes and night sweats, but the new study is among the first and largest to analyze the impact of weight loss from a high-fat, whole-foods diet.
"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 co-researcher Bette Caan. "Weight loss, especially loss of fat mass but not lean mass, might also help alleviate hot flashes and night sweats."