Many menopausal women would do anything to find relief for hot flashes, and these embarrassing, sleep-disrupting episodes of extreme heat are one of the main reasons some women take hormone therapy, despite its risks.
But a study recently published in the journal Menopause found that following a low-fat diet high in fruits, vegetables and grains might help. Women assigned to stick to such a diet were 14% more likely to eliminate hot flashes within the first year than were women who stuck with their normal diets. Women who lost at least 10 pounds, or who lost 10% or more of their body weight, also reported hot flash relief.
However, the diet had effects aside from its potential to lead to weight loss, because even women in the diet group who gained weight were likely to report reduced or eliminated hot flashes.
So if you're suffering from hot flashes, should you try a diet like this one? While it's always (always) a good idea to eat more fruits and vegetables, it's unclear to me whether the "low fat" aspect of the diet played a big role. It's likely that reducing fat and upping produce consumption led the diet group to eat less fast food and processed foods, and reducing any number of the ingredients found there (not just fat but sugar, preservatives, maybe even hormone-mimicking chemicals in the packaging) might have played a role.
But the simple message of this study is to cut back on the processed stuff and stick to a whole foods diet filled with lots of fresh produce—that's something we should be doing for a long list of reasons, but if the promise of relief for hot flashes motivates you, keep it in mind when you're cruising the grocery aisles or ordering from a restaurant menu.
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