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Menopause Health Center

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Losing Weight May Ease Hot Flashes, Study Finds

Doctors say extra fat, and the extra estrogen it produces, make menopause tougher for heavy women

WebMD News from HealthDay

By Kristen Fischer

HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, July 10, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Slimming down may help ease the hot flashes that often accompany menopause, new research suggests.

Hot flashes can be debilitating for more than 50 percent of menopausal women, said Dr. Taraneh Shirazian, an assistant professor of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive science at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. About one-third of menopausal women experience more than 10 hot flashes a day, and she added that hot flashes are more common in obese women.

"Fat appears to function as an insulator, and interferes with heat dissipation," explained Shirazian, who was not involved in the study.

Another expert, Dr. Jill Rabin, co-chief of ambulatory care and women's health programs at North Shore-LIJ Health System in New Hyde Park, N.Y., said estrogen can also be produced in fat tissue.

Rabin said she has found that obese and overweight women have, in general, more severe and more frequent hot flash symptoms.

"They have a harder time with the menopausal transition," she said. "It may be the extra fat that makes heat dissipation more difficult."

Overweight and obese women may also yo-yo diet, which could mean they have fluctuating estrogen levels, and that could make it harder for their bodies to regulate their internal temperatures, Rabin added.

In the new study, published online recently in the journal Menopause, Rebecca Thurston of the University of Pittsburgh and colleagues followed 40 overweight and obese white and black women who experienced hot flashes during menopause. They divided the women into two groups: One group went through a weight-loss program for six months, while the other group (the "control" group) was told they were on a wait-list for a clinical study.

Using physiologic monitoring, diaries and questionnaires, the investigators measured details about hot flashes as they occurred in women who had four or more hot flashes a day. The women were either in the later stages of perimenopause (not having menstrual periods for three months to a year) or postmenopausal (not having a period for a year or more).

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