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London - Losing excess weight could help banish the symptoms of the menopause, research has suggested.
Women who managed to shift 10lb (about 4.5kg) or more suffered fewer hot flushes and night sweats.
The findings may encourage doctors to tell menopausal patients to lose weight before prescribing hormone replacement therapy.
Many women are reluctant to use HRT over fears it can heighten the risk of breast cancer and heart disease.
American scientists behind the latest study think that weight loss reduces the levels of certain hormones that trigger symptoms.
Overweight women tend to produce more oestrogen, a hormone which is thought to aggravate hot flushes and night sweats.
And experts also think that having excess body fat may prevent the body from cooling down after a flush.
The study looked at 17,473 women who were all going through the menopause, none of whom was on HRT.
They were all put on a low-fat diet which consisted of fruit, vegetables and wholegrain bread, cereal, rice and pasta.
Women who managed to shed 10lb had fewer hot flushes and night sweats over the following year compared to those who only lost a little weight, or stayed the same. Lead author Candyce Kroenke from healthcare firm Kaiser Permanente, which carried out the research, said the cause was not completely understood.
She added: “Hot flushes and night sweats are thought to be caused by a complex interaction that involves fluctuating hormone levels, the hypothalamus region of the brain that regulates body temperature, brain chemicals and receptors, and the body’s blood vessels and sweat glands.
“Weight loss, especially loss of fat mass but not lean mass, might help alleviate hot flashes and night sweats.”
The safety of HRT was called into question in 2002 when it was linked to breast cancer.
Over the next few years the number of British women taking the treatment halved to one million. Although experts have since disputed these findings, many women are reluctant to use HRT.
* A separate study found that a couple of glasses of wine a day may help prevent bone thinning – another symptom of the menopause.
Scientists from Oregon State University, in the US, found women were more at risk of osteoporosis if they stopped drinking.
The study looked at 40 menopausal women who were moderate drinkers who were asked not to consume any alcohol for two weeks.
After that time their bones showed signs of becoming thinner. - Daily Mail