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It is doubtful that soy products and supplements ease the symptoms of the menopause

It is doubtful that soy products and supplements ease the symptoms of the menopause

A new evaluation by Nutrimedia, a project of the Science Communication Observatory in collaboration with the Cochrane Iberoamerican Center, highlights the lack of reliable scientific data to affirm that the consumption of soy products effectively relieves hot flushes and other symptoms associated with the menopause.

30.01.2018

A new evaluation by Nutrimedia, a project of the Science Communication Observatory (OCC) of the Department of Communication at UPF , in collaboration with the Cochrane Iberoamerican Center (CCIB), highlights the lack of reliable scientific data to affirm that the consumption of soy products effectively relieves hot flushes and other symptoms associated with the menopause. The analysis of the extensive research available on the effects of the consumption of soy plant oestrogens to alleviate menopausal hormonal deficit and reduce its symptoms has determined that the effectiveness of these products is unsure. This means that more, better quality studies are needed to find out whether these dietary supplements work or not. The Nutrimedia analyses establish five degrees of certainty about messages concerning food and health: true, probably true, probably false, fake and unsure.

Despite the widespread idea that the consumption of soy and its derivatives mitigates the symptoms of the menopause, the message is considered unsure because the scientific evidence available shows that phytoestrogens (such as soy isoflavones) do not have any appreciable effect on hot flushes or, in any case, it is minimal; in addition, the confidence merited by the results of the investigations is very low, according to the evaluation of the available evidence undertaken by researchers at Nutrimedia. The same is true of the data available regarding vaginal and cognitive symptoms (memory impairment, etc.). Therefore, it can only be concluded that relief from the symptoms of menopause with the consumption of soy products and supplements is, today at any rate, doubtful.

Menopause and hormonal treatment

In the 1990s, hormone replacement therapy (HRT) was widely recommended for the treatment of the symptoms associated with the menopause, until it was observed that, for the benefits it provided, it involved too many risks for the health (thromboembolisms, stroke, several types of cancer, cognitive impairment, etc.). Now, when this therapy is administered far more cautiously and in a personalized manner, hope has shifted towards non-pharmacological treatment on the basis of phytoestrogens (plant oestrogens) of soybeans and derived products. The phytoestrogens found in soy are isoflavones, with a very similar structure to the oestrogen produced by the body. These compounds appear to exert an estrogenic or an anti-oestrogenic effect depending on the level of oestrogen in the blood (anti-oestrogenic when the plasma oestrogen level is high, estrogenic when it is low).

The menopause begins after 12 months without menstruating. In this new phase, the ovaries cease to produce egg cells and the production of female hormones (oestrogen and progestogen) decreases, which is associated with the end of women’s reproductive life. As a result of these changes, some women may present a variety of symptoms or health problems that can affect their quality of life: hot flushes affect 50-82% of women, while vaginal symptoms such as dryness or pain during intercourse (associated with vaginal atrophy) affect 47%. There are other symptoms such as sleep disturbance, memory loss, anxiety, depression or reduced sexual desire, among others, that have not been proved to be related with the menopause.

To view the technical report:  https://tinyurl.com/yclzvl6a

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