Soy ineffective for menopause relief

By Carrie Johnson Weimar • Published: February 27th, 2012
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

For years, women suffering from the discomfort and potential bone loss associated with menopause turned to hormones such as estrogen and progestin for relief. But then research from the Women’s Health Initiative found an elevated risk of heart disease and cancer associated with those supplements, which led many women to seek out alternative treatments.

So many women turned to soy, which was said to be a safe and natural replacement for hormone therapy. But now scientists have found that soy may not be an effective alternative after all.

In the study, the scientists split a group of 248 women who had recently hit menopause into two different groups. Half of the women took 200 milligrams of soy isoflavones per day … about twice as much as you would get by eating a diet rich in soy. The other half took placebos.

The scientists observed the women for two years. At the end of the study, the researchers found no difference between the two groups in the amount of bone density lost in the hip and spine. The women in both groups also reported a similar number of menopause symptoms … with the exception of hot flashes. In fact, hot flashes were more common among the women taking soy supplements: 48 percent compared to the control group’s 32 percent.

While soy supplements are cheap and easy to take, this evidence shows they really don’t do much good. So what should menopausal women do? Doctors have found that some medications, including anti-depressants, may bring relief for menopausal discomfort. To slow bone loss, experts recommend plenty of physical activity combined with vitamin D and calcium supplements. No matter what, discuss it with a doctor before deciding which course of treatment will be most effective.

And when it comes to hot flashes, take heart, you can generally keep them at bay by keeping cool and watching what you eat.