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Flaxseed shows potential to reduce hot flashes

Public release date: 29-Aug-2007

ROCHESTER, Minn. — Data from a new Mayo Clinic (http://mayoclinic.edu) study suggest that dietary therapy using flaxseed can decrease hot flashes in postmenopausal women who do not take estrogen. The findings from the pilot study are published in the summer 2007 issue of the Journal of the Society for Integrative Oncology.

The 29 participants in Mayo’s clinical trial were women with bothersome hot flashes who did not want to take estrogen because of a perceived increased risk of breast cancer. They also had not received (in the preceding four weeks) antineoplastic chemotherapy, androgens, hormonal agents, or other herbal supplements, including soy. Some patients did not complete the trial, but full data for six weeks of flaxseed therapy, consisting of 40 grams of crushed flaxseed ingested daily, was obtained from 21 of them

Participants were asked questions that the researchers translated into a hot flash score — a combined measure of frequency and severity. The frequency of hot flashes decreased 50 percent over six weeks, and the overall hot flash score decreased an average 57 percent for the women who completed the trial. Participants also reported improvements in mood, joint or muscle pain, chills and sweating; which significantly improved their health-related quality of life.

“We are quite pleased with the improvements noted by these women in their quality of life,” says Dr. Pruthi. “Not only does flaxseed seem to alleviate hot flashes, but it appears to have overall health and psychological benefits as well.”

Dr. Pruthi’s team chose to research flaxseed because it is a phytoestrogen (plant-based estrogen source). Flaxseed contains lignans and omega-3 fatty acids. Lignans are antioxidants with weak estrogen-emulating characteristics, and have some anti-cancer effects. Flaxseed also appears to have anti-estrogen properties and has been shown in some recent research trials to decrease breast cancer risk. The researchers hypothesized that patients taking flaxseed might gain some relief for hot flashes.

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