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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 continued...

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.

Weight Loss & Hot Flash Relief: Perspective

The new study takes what is known about weight and hot flashes, expands our knowledge, and explains the link better, says Jill Rabin, MD, chief of ambulatory care, obstetrics and gynecology, and head of urogynecology at Long Island Jewish Medical Center. She reviewed the findings.

Doctors have long suspected that women who are overweight or obese tend to have more hot flashes during menopause than those who are leaner, she tells WebMD. "It may be because of the estrogen that is stored in the fat tissues," she says.

The new findings suggest that ''the fat cell itself may be functioning in a way we didn't realize to regulate temperature and produce substances that alter perception of body temperature," she says.

The women on the low-fat diet who didn't lose weight but had fewer hot flashes may have reduced their body fat, Rabin says.

The women in the low-fat diet group also received information about how to overcome obstacles to behavioral change and control cravings, says Alison Huang, MD, assistant professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco. She also reviewed the findings.

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