Growing old is inevitable. As we age, body parts start to ache and sag with wrinkles and grey hairs becoming the focus of our early morning mirror staring ritual. Whilst men are subject to such physical changes, for women, hitting their mid to late forties also signifies the beginning of new phase of life – one that is hormonal and generally dreaded. Initial symptoms that women may be entering the menopause can be subtle to begin, but many potential symptoms of menopause can not only have negative impact on the quality of daily life, but can also lead to a host of age-related diseases, including heart disease and osteoporosis.
World Menopause Month is an opportunity to focus not only on research, but also on the treatment options that may benefit menopause related conditions and symptoms by educating women about menopause and the benefits of preventive health care. Whilst Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) has been a popular and successful option for providing relief from symptoms of menopause, a variety of problems are known to exist, and more women are looking at complementary and alternative methods to deal with their menopause related symptoms.
Diet, HRT or Placebo in New Menopause Research
As such, dietary supplementation is becoming a popular alternative and increasing numbers of scientific trials are backing the use of supplementation as an effective and safe alternative therapy to HRT. The most recent of such studies fits very nicely within World Menopause Month, published this month in the journal Maturitas, and reports the findings of a double-blind, randomised, controlled trial in which sixty healthy, symptomatic, postmenopausal women of 40–60 years of age were allocated to use dietary soy supplementation or HRT or placebo1.
The findings of this study support existing evidence that phytoestrogens from soy improve the severity of menopausal symptoms including hot flushes, joint and muscle pain and vaginal dryness as effectively as HRT. Such findings are encouraging when taking into account that extended use of HRT may not only increase the risk of breast cancer but also may increase the risk of heart disease. Many women may find that use of HRT suits them, but what is clearly apparent is that there is an increasing need for scientific validation of natural alternatives so that women can have more choice and freedom to choose and that these choices are safe.
1. Carmignani LO, Pedro AO, Costa-Paiva LH, Pinto-Neto AM. The effect of dietary soy supplementation compared to oestrogen and placebo on menopausal symptoms: A randomized controlled trial. Maturitas (2010), doi:10.1016/j.maturitas.2010.07.007
Dr Nina Bailey received her PhD in Cell Biology from Cambridge University and her doctoral research was conducted under the supervision of Prof. Sheila Bingham at the Dunn Human Nutrition Unit, Cambridge.
More information can be found on her website at www.drninabailey.com