Can Weight Loss Cool Hot Flashes?
Women Who Lost Weight on Low-Fat Diet Had Fewer or No Hot Flashes, Researchers Find
Low-Fat Diet, Hot Flash Relief Findings
In all, 26% of the women had hot flashes at the beginning of the study, with most reporting mild ones. Twenty-seven percent had night sweats, most of them mild.
After a year, those who followed a low-fat diet were three times more likely to lose weight -- defined as 5 pounds or more -- than those who did not lose weight.
The comparison group was more than two times as likely to gain weight as those following the low-fat diet.
Those who followed the low-fat diet were more likely to be rid of their menopausal symptoms after a year, Caan found.
If they had moderate or severe symptoms and lost 22 pounds or more, they were likely to eliminate their symptoms, she says. If they had mild symptoms and lost 10 or more pounds, they could also eliminate their symptoms, Caan says.
Then came a surprise finding. Women on the low-fat diet who actually gained more than 10 pounds also reported fewer symptoms.
"These findings suggest that weight loss and healthy dietary change could each help to reduce or eliminate [menopausal symptoms]," she says.
Weight Loss & Hot Flash Relief: Why
Caan suspects fat loss itself helps the bothersome symptoms decline. "Fat provides insulation," she says. "You lose it, and you don't need to dissipate as much heat. A hot flash is a way to dissipate heat."
She can't explain for sure why the women on the low-fat diet who didn't lose weight also reported a reduction in symptoms. Other research has found that a higher fiber intake was helpful in reducing hot flashes, Caan says. So the high fiber from the fruits and vegetables and whole grains might have helped.
"It could also be placebo effect," she says. "Women who get a lot of attention [from the study] may be feeling better. They may feel empowered."
Even so, Caan says, the focus should be on the finding that losing weight on a low-fat diet reduced the hot flash risk.
"The biggest reduction in symptoms was in women who lost weight and were on the diet," Caan tells WebMD.