By Kimberly Beauchamp, ND
Healthnotes Newswire (May 25, 2006)—Women searching for alternatives to hormone replacement therapy (HRT) for their menopausal complaints will be encouraged by the results of a trial reported in Fertility and Sterility. According to the new study, a soy isoflavone supplement can help elevate mood and improve mental sharpness in postmenopausal women.
When a woman goes through menopause, typically around age 50, falling hormone levels can cause hot flashes, lowered sex drive, fatigue, anxiety, mood swings, and decreased mental acuity. HRT may relieve many of the physical discomforts of menopause, but it doesn’t seem to have an effect on mood or the ability to think and concentrate. Also, recent studies have shown that HRT use increases the risk of breast cancer, heart disease, and stroke, making it a less desirable option.
Isoflavones—compounds that can either enhance or block the activity of estrogen in the body—are often useful for reducing hot flashes and may help protect against certain types of cancer. Soy foods are the richest dietary source of isoflavones; concentrated soy isoflavone products are also widely available.
Based on the estrogen-like effects of isoflavones, the study’s authors theorized, “…it is possible that isoflavone supplementation may have significant effects on brain (function) and behavior.” To test this, the researchers gave 78 postmenopausal women a supplement containing 60 mg of soy isoflavones or a placebo each day for six months. After one month of no treatment, the groups were switched and the study continued for another six months.
After taking the isoflavone supplement, the women were significantly less depressed, tired, and angry, and were better able to recall information than after taking the placebo. Sixty-four percent of the women reported a preference for the supplement.
Most soy foods contain about 1 to 2 mg of isoflavones per gram of protein. However, Dr. Tori Hudson, a naturopathic physician specializing in women’s health who was not connected with the study, advises, “When using a soy powder or capsule, be careful to look for the isoflavone content on the label, because they [the isoflavones] are sometimes removed in the manufacturing process.”
(Fertil Steril 2006;85:972–8)
Kimberly Beauchamp, ND, earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Rhode Island and her Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine from Bastyr University in Kenmore, WA. She cofounded South County Naturopaths in Wakefield, RI. Dr. Beauchamp practices as a birth doula and lectures on topics including whole-foods nutrition, detoxification, and women’s health.
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