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Cooling Hot Flashes With Soy Isoflavones


The flushed face, rapid heart beat, increased pulse rate and perspiration that hot flashes bring are among the discomforts menopausal women endure. Estrogen therapy is a common treatment, but for those seeking to ease through this transition in a more natural way, soy isoflavones can offer relief.

A nationwide survey, “Women & Menopause: A Look at Supplement Use,” provides new insights into menopausal women’s desires and behaviors related to their use of natural supplements for the relief of menopausal symptoms, and their expectations of health-care providers when discussing menopause. The survey polled 1,258 women ages 40 to 55 and found one-third try natural supplements for the relief of menopausal symptoms. The survey also found that nearly all women who are using natural supplements for hot flashes say these are their “favorite method of treatment.”

Isoflavones selectively interact with estrogen receptors in the body to produce their effects. Clinical trials have shown that menopausal women who consume 50 to 55 mg of soy isoflavones daily from whole-soybean sources have seen a reduction in hot flashes. To meet this requirement, however, women would have to consume approximately 3 cups of soymilk or ½ lb. of tofu per day, options that are less than mouthwatering for some. For this reason, many turn to supplements and/or functional foods to obtain optimal levels.

Novasoy® from Archer Daniels Midland Company (ADM) is an isoflavone concentrate made from the whole soybean. “About 10 to 15 years ago, research evidence of the health effects of soy consumption drove development of this product,” says Patricia Williamson-Hughes, Ph.D., nutrition scientist. “Some prime areas of research have been related to menopause, such as hot flashes and bone loss.”

But the science surrounding isoflavones was inconsistent, adds Greg Dodson, business director, natural heath & nutrition division. This finding was reached following a critical review of 11 previously published trials that had yielded mixed results regarding the effectiveness of isoflavone extracts in reducing the frequency or severity of menopausal symptoms. The findings were published in Menopause: The Journal of The North American Menopause Society (13(5):831-839).

“Previous studies that concluded isoflavones lack efficacy did so because of their failure to consider the specific isoflavone compositions of study products,” Hughes notes. “Some studies used isoflavones from a soy germ vs. a whole-bean source. We found that efficacy was directly related to the isoflavone genistein content. Extracts that are characteristic of the whole soybean, such as Novasoy, contain much more genistein than extracts made from soy germ.”

Since the initial review was published, Hughes has reviewed six new studies. Of the total 17 studies reviewed, she says those providing more than 15 mg genistein “consistently reported a statistically significant reduction in hot flashes compared to placebo control.”

Available in powder form, Novasoy is easy to formulate in bars, beverages and dairy products.


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