Various studies have shown that women with a higher body mass index (BMI) or a higher percent of body fat have more frequent or more severe menopausal symptoms. In a recent study, researchers evaluated the impact of a low-fat diet on vasomotor symptoms in a group of 17,473 postmenopausal women between the ages of 50 and 79.
Add the beginning of the study 26% of the women had hot flashes, with most women reporting mild symptoms. Women adhering to a low-fat-diet (20% of their calories from fat, 5 servings of fruits and vegetables, 6 servings of whole grains daily) were:
- Three times as likely to lose weight (5 or more pounds) after one year than women with no dietary modification
- Twice as likely to eliminate their menopausal symptoms (hot flashes) after one year
Looking more carefully at the data, it appeared that while adhering to a low-fat diet helps to eliminate hot flashes, the effect is even greater in those who lost weight as a result of the intervention. The women who followed a low-fat diet and lost weight (10 pounds or more) had a greater reduction in their menopausal symptoms than women who were on a low-fat diet but did not lose weight.
Most women tend to gain weight with age. This study indicates that weight loss or prevention of weight gain may be a viable strategy for alleviating or eliminating menopausal symptoms. This study is also consistent with previous smaller studies suggesting that certain diets — high fiber or low fat – may reduce the risk of vasomotor symptoms. Whether the interventions explored in this study will yield similar results in younger perimenopausal women (who may have more frequent or severe vasomotor symptoms) is not clear. However, given all the known health benefits of a healthy diet and maintaining a normal body weight, it would be hard to argue against this sort of lifestyle modification.
Ruta Nonacs, MD PhD
Kroenke CH, Caan BJ, Stefanick ML, et al. Effects of a dietary intervention and weight change on vasomotor symptoms in the Women’s Health Initiative. Menopause. 2012 Jul 9. [Epub ahead of print].
Can Weight Loss Cool Hot Flashes? (WebMD)
Weight Loss Resulting from a Low-Fat Diet May Help Eliminate Menopausal Symptoms (Science Daily)