Specific plant-based diet found to eliminate most menopause hot flashes

Hot flashes are a common symptom of menopause and, unfortunately, they can be quite severe at times, interfering with sleep and one's ability to work. Traditionally speaking, estrogen drugs were used to reduce these hot flashes, but such use has been curbed by concerns about breast cancer risk. As it turns out, according to a new study, you may not need these drugs to get relief.

The new study, which has been named the Women's Study for the Alleviation of Vasomotor Symptoms (WAVS), looked at the potential of a plant-based diet with high quantities of soy products as a potential way to reduce hot flashes in menopausal women. The study ran for 12 weeks and involved women who experienced at least two hot flashes every day.

The participants were split up into two groups, one that was tasked with eating a soy-rich vegan diet and the other tasked with eating their ordinary diets (the control group). In the case of this study, the vegan diet was low in fat and contained a half-cup of cooked soybeans. Of note, soybeans — as with other legumes like chickpeas — contain phytoestrogens, including isoflavones.

While past research has found that isoflavone ("phytoestrogen") extracts only offered some relief from hot flashes, it seems that eating the legumes directly has a more promising impact on women experiencing menopause.

The researchers gave the participants access to a mobile app to record their hot flashes, as well as other symptoms related to menopause. Among other things, the participants were given an Instant Pot to cook the beans, an auto-calibrated scale for monitoring their body weight, and they talked with the researchers weekly.

After the 12 weeks were over, the control group — which ate their regular diets — didn't experience any changes in their hot flash symptoms. However, the group tasked with eating a soy-rich vegan diet experienced an overall 79-percent decrease in hot flash frequency; the number of moderate and severe hot flashes dropped by 84-percent, while 59-percent experienced relief from all moderate and severe hot flashes.

The study's author Hana Kahleova, MD, Ph.D., explained:

Previous studies have shown that soy could be beneficial, so we decided to put a diet change to the test. We believe that the combination is what is important. By the end of the study, the majority of women on a plant-based diet rich in soy reported that they no longer experienced moderate-to-extreme hot flashes at all and that they experienced significant improvements in their quality of life.