Menopause Weight Loss: Lose Weight For Relief

July 20, 2010

Now there's a new way to get a bit of relief from menopausal hot flashes: lose weight. So says Alison J. Huang, MD, of San Francisco's University of California where she and her colleagues came across this surprising piece of information quite by accident.

Sudden Flushing: Hot Flashes

Hot flashes, sometimes called hot flushes, are common to women in menopause. This symptom consists of sudden flushing of the face accompanied by sweating. Hot flashes may last for five year or even longer. While earlier studies suggested that having a high body mass index (BMI) contributed to the severity of hot flashes, no one knew whether losing weight might be beneficial for sufferers of this symptom.

Huang and her research team assigned at random 338 women who were either overweight or obese to one of two programs. One program was an intensive weight loss program that used behavior modification toward a goal of losing 7%-9% total body weight within 6 month's time. The other group attended an educational initiative on healthy lifestyle behaviors.

All of the participants were there to participate in a study related to urinary incontinence. The weight loss group participants talked to experts each week and were told to engage in aerobic exercise such as walking for 200 minutes each week and to eat according to a 1,200-1,500 calorie diet each day. Those women in the health education program had to attend four sessions, one hour each, on the topic of nutrition and healthy lifestyle habits.

The average age of the participants was 53 and their BMI's were at 25 or higher. All of them had problems with urinary incontinence. At the inception of the study, 154 participants reported that they suffered from hot flashes. Among this number, 141 gave detailed data about their hot flashes half a year after the study began.

Out of the 141 female participants, 65 of them said their hot flashes bothered them less at 6 months into the weight loss program, 53 said there was no change, and 23 said their hot flashes had worsened.

Marked Improvement In Menopause Symptoms

When compared with the women in the health education program, those hot flash sufferers in the weight loss program had doubled their odds for a marked improvement in hot flashes after 6 months. There was a clear link between improved symptoms and a decrease in waist size, weight, and BMI. However, no link could be established between symptom reduction and exercise, caloric intake, blood pressure, or general mental and physical function. The results of this study were published in the July 12, 2010 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine.


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