Flaxseed shows potential against hot flushes

By Stephen Daniells

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Hot flushes, Menopause

Flaxseed, a rich source of plant omega-3 and lignans, may reduce
the frequency of hot flushes by almost 60 per cent, suggests new
research from the US.

The study, published in the summer 2007 issue of the Journal of the Society for Integrative Oncology​, could offer an alternative for the reduction of menopausal symptoms such as hot flushes to more established supplements like black cohosh or soy isoflavones. Historically black cohosh has been a popular alternative to hormone replacement therapy (HRT) in many countries including the UK, where it is estimated that 9 million days worth of black cohosh supplements were purchased in 2004. Data from a new pilot study from the Mayo Clinic suggest that dietary therapy using flaxseed may also decrease hot flushes in postmenopausal women who do not take oestrogen. A hot flush, or hot flash in North America, is often described as a flush of intense warmth across much of the body that may be accompanied by sweating, reddening of the skin, or, occasionally, cold shivers. The researchers recruited 29 postmenopausal women who suffered from hot flushes and refused to take oestrogen because of a perceived increased risk of breast cancer. They women were assigned to receive daily supplements of flaxseed consisting of 40 grams of crushed flaxseed for six weeks. Full data was obtained from 21 of the women. Participants completed questionnaires regarding the frequency and severity of their hot flushes before and after the trial. Lead researcher Sandhya Pruthi and co-workers report that the frequency of hot flashes decreased 50 per cent over six weeks, and the overall hot flash score decreased an average 57 per cent for the women who completed the trial. The researchers also report improvements mood, joint or muscle pain, chills and sweating among the participants. "We are quite pleased with the improvements noted by these women in their quality of life,"​ stated Pruthi. "Not only does flaxseed seem to alleviate hot flashes, but it appears to have overall health and psychological benefits as well."​ The researchers proposed that phyto-oestrogen content of flaxseed - most notably lignans - were behind the apparent benefits. Lignans are antioxidants with weak oestrogen-emulating characteristics, and have some anti-cancer effects. Flaxseed also appears to have anti-oestrogen properties and has been shown in some recent research trials to decrease breast cancer risk. "While results were promising, we have more research to conduct,"​ said Pruthi. "Oftentimes, pilot studies show promising results that upon further study in a large, randomized placebo-controlled study turn out to be much less remarkable." ​ Dr. Pruthi confirmed that research in this field is ongoing, stating that the team hopes to open a new, larger clinical trial in 2008 evaluating flaxseed against a placebo to better refine the results, and to hopefully confirm flaxseed as a new alternative for hot flushes in women. "Black cohosh was evaluated initially in a pilot study in a manner similar to that of the current trial. This pilot experience reported a reduction in hot flash score (frequency and severity) that exceeded 50 per cent,"​ wrote the researchers. "A large randomized placebo-controlled study was subsequently initiated, using a crossover technique to assess efficacy and toxicity; however, this trial failed to provide evidence that black cohosh reduced hot flashes more than placebo. "These findings support the position that placebo-controlled trials are essential to follow up promising pilot data before declaring that a new agent clearly decreases hot flash frequency and severity,"​ they added. Source: Journal of the Society for Integrative Oncology​ Volume 5, Number 3, doi: 10.2310/7200.2007.007 "Pilot Evaluation of Flaxseed for the Management of Hot Flashes" ​Authors: S. Pruthi, S.L. Thompson, P.J. Novotny, D.L. Barton, L.A. Kottschade, A.D. Tan, J.A. Sloan, C.L. Loprinzi

Related topics: Research, Polyphenols, Women's health

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