A new study has determined that phytoestrogens are effective at reducing the incidence of hot flushes in menopause. This comes from a ‘meta-analysis’ where researchers group lots of studies and determine the overall effect. The summary or ‘abstract’ of this publication can be found below.
Phytoestrogens are found in foods such as fermented soy (some tofu, tempeh, miso), flaxseeds, legumes (lentils, chickpeas etc.), fennel, garlic and parsley. Contrary to popular opinion, phytoestrogens do not increase the risk of breast cancer or disrupt hormones. They only stimulate certain oestrogen receptors in the body and are perfectly safe to include regularly in your diet.
Tips on how to include phytoestrogens in your diet:
- Try hummus with oatcakes as a healthy snack
- Make lentil and vegetable soup (recipe to be posted next week, keep an eye out….)
- Add ground linseeds (also called flaxseeds) to your breakfast cereal or to smoothies
- Grate or thinly slice fennel bulb and add to salads. Or roughly chop it and roast it
- Add chickpeas, lentils or beans to salads
- Make your own vinaigrette with 3 tbsp. flaxseed oil, 3 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil, 2 tbsp. lemon juice, 1 clove garlic and a small handful of fresh parsley. Just blend with a handblender and store in fridge for 3 – 4 days. Add mustard if you like
Efficacy of phytoestrogens for menopausal symptoms: a meta-analysis and systematic review.
Chen et al Climacteric. 2015 Apr;18(2):260-269. Epub 2014 Dec 1.
To perform a meta-analysis examining the efficacy of phytoestrogens for the relief of menopausal symptoms.
Medline, Cochrane, EMBASE, and Google Scholar databases were searched until September 30, 2013 using the following key words: vasomotor symptoms, menopausal symptoms, phytoestrogens, isoflavones, coumestrol, soy, red clover. Inclusion criteria were (1) randomized controlled trial (RCT), (2) perimenopausal or postmenopausal women experiencing menopausal symptoms, (3) intervention with an oral phytoestrogen.
Outcome measures included Kupperman index (KI) changes, daily hot flush frequency, and the likelihood of side-effects.
Of 543 potentially relevant studies identified, 15 RCTs meeting the inclusion criteria were included. The mean age of the subjects ranged from 49 to 58.3 and 48 to 60.1 years, respectively, in the placebo and phytoestrogen groups. The number of participants ranged from 30 to 252, and the intervention periods ranged from 3 to 12 months. Meta-analysis of the seven studies that reported KI data indicated no significant treatment effect of phytoestrogen as compared to placebo (pooled mean difference = 6.44, p = 0.110). Meta-analysis of the ten studies that reported hot flush data indicated that phytoestrogens result in a significantly greater reduction in hot flush frequency compared to placebo (pooled mean difference = 0.89, p < 0.005). Meta-analysis of the five studies that reported side-effect data showed no significant difference between the two groups (p = 0.175).
Phytoestrogens appear to reduce the frequency of hot flushes in menopausal women, without serious side-effects.