A plant-based diet rich in soy was found to reduce menopause symptoms, especially hot flashes, according to a new study.

Source: Physicians Committee/YouTube

The study, published in the journal North American Menopause Society, found that a plant-based diet rich in soy is about as effective as hormone replacement therapy to reduce menopausal hot flashes, and it doesn’t have the associated health risks.

The Women’s Study for the Alleviation of Vasomotor Symptoms found that not only did a plant-based diet rich in soy reduce hot flashes by 88 percent, but it also helped women lose weight.

The study was the second phase of a two-part trial, the last of which was published in 2021. The first trial took place in the fall, so to confirm whether or not the symptomatic improvement was related to cooler temperatures, they conducted the second trial in the spring. They concluded that regardless of outside temperature, the diet had the same benefit.

“We do not fully understand yet why this combination works but it seems that these three elements are key—avoiding animal products, reducing fat, and adding a serving of soybeans,” explained lead researcher Neal Barnard, MD, president of the Physicians Committee and adjunct professor at the George Washington University School of Medicine. “Our results mirror the diets of places in the world, like pre-Westernized Japan and modern-day Yucatán Peninsula, where a low-fat, plant-based diet including soybeans is more prevalent and where postmenopausal women experience fewer symptoms.”

The study included 84 postmenopausal women who reported two or more hot flashes per day. They were assigned to either eat a low-fat, vegan diet, including half a cup of cooked soybeans daily or to a control group that made no diet changes for 12 weeks.

“This study demonstrates the effectiveness of a dietary intervention for menopausal symptoms,” Dr. Barnard explains. “As well, it is precisely the diet that would be expected to reduce the health concerns of many women reaching menopause: an increasing risk of heart disease, breast cancer, and memory problems.”

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