Weight Loss May Reduce Menopause Symptoms

Many women experience bothersome symptoms during menopause. Hot flashes are one of the most frequent symptoms, affecting up to 80 percent of menopausal women in America, and can persist for years.  Hot flashes and night sweats are classified as vasomotor symptoms (VMS), and they are especially troublesome. They negatively affect a woman’s quality of life by disrupting sleep, interfering with work and leisure activities, and exacerbating anxiety and depression.

Previous research has shown that larger body mass is associated with more frequent or intense VMS during menopause.  Little is known, however, about weight change and VMS. Researchers at Kaiser Permanente Division of Research decided to investigate whether weight loss might reduce symptoms. Using data from more than 17,000 women involved in the Women’s Health Initiative Study, they found that weight loss may help to reduce or eliminate VMS associated with menopause. Specifically, women in the study who lost either at least 10 pounds or at least 10 percent of their body weight were more likely to reduce or eliminate hot flashes and night sweats after one year, compared to those in a control group that did not lose weight. The weight loss group in this study was on a low-fat diet, high in grains, fruits and vegetables.

Researcher Bette Caan, DrPH, explained that “greater body fat provides insulation that may hinder heat loss, and hot flashes and night sweats provide a way to dissipate that heat. Weight loss–especially loss of fat mass but not lean mass–may also help relieve hot flashes and night sweats.” The findings, published in a recent issue of Menopause, are preliminary and the researchers emphasize that further research is needed to better understand the relationship between diet, body weight and VMS associated with menopause. “Yet again we are reminded of how intricately woven our many systems and body functions are,” Las Vegas weight loss surgeon, Dr. Tom Umbach, said in response to the study’s findings.  “Here is further evidence of how weight loss surgery and weight loss help to restore our body’s delicate balance,” he added.

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