The British Nutrition Foundation has suggested a healthy diet is more effective for managing the menopause than various supplements available on the market
It said over half of women in the UK seek “complementary therapies or alternatives to hormone replacement therapy” to manage their menopausal symptoms, which can include hot flushes, night sweats and changes in body weight.
Over one in four (29%) have tried herbal remedies to ease their symptoms, and 30% have tried vitamins, such as B vitamins, which are often taken to alleviate psychological symptoms during the menopause, including depression, anxiety and cognitive changes.
However, the BNF said there is “insufficient evidence to support the use of most of these in combatting menopausal symptoms“. It conceded that some studies have reported that herbal or botanical supplements, such as black cohosh and St John’s Wort, might help alleviate symptoms such as hot flushes, but the BNF has concerns about the “various preparations available, their safety, and potential interactions with other medicines.”
The BNF also said soybeans and soy foods have attracted a “great deal of interest for their potential in managing hot flushes and night sweats” but said study results were mixed, and although there is “some evidence that they may relieve such symptoms, it’s unclear whether soy compounds from the diet and supplements have the same effects.”
It added there is a “lot of misleading and false information online and on social media, and it can be challenging to know what advice to follow.”
Healthy and balanced
The review concluded that healthier dietary patterns (rich in fruit and vegetables, wholegrains, beans and other pulses, and healthier fats from foods like oily fish, nuts and seeds) may help to reduce the frequency and severity of vasomotor systems, such as hot flushes, as well as helping to manage body weight or body shape changes as a result of going through the menopause.
“The scientific evidence suggests that the best change you can make to your diet to help manage common menopausal symptoms is to follow a healthy, balanced dietary pattern,” said the BNF. “And it’s a bonus that this will also support bone and heart health too after the menopausal transition, when women have a greater risk of osteoporosis and heart disease.”
Sara Stanner, Science Director at the BNF, who co-authored the review, said “going through the menopausal transition can be a challenging time, with both physical and psychological symptoms occurring for many that can have a negative impact on daily lives and quality of life.
“Our new review highlights that there may be small changes we could make to our daily eating habits to consume a healthier dietary pattern that could help us maintain a healthy weight and possibly help alleviate symptoms such as hot flushes.
“But there is no ‘magic bullet’ when it comes to diet and supplements in managing menopausal symptoms, and it’s important that those going through the menopause are supported and given access to the information and tools needed to make the right changes for them.”
Sara Moger, Chief Executive at the British Menopause Society, said “although the internet and social media give us quick access to information, it can also be quite overwhelming and a difficult place to know where to go for evidence-based information.
“We have long advocated for the dissemination of good quality and accurate information about the menopause to support those who are navigating this life stage and we’re pleased to be working with the British Nutrition Foundation to do so.
“This latest review provides a thorough update on the evidence looking at how diet and supplements can help with managing common menopause symptoms, debunking some common myths and showing that a healthy, balanced dietary pattern is really key.”