Study: Low-Fat Diet Eases Hot Flashes, Night Sweats

Patient Expert

Plagued with hot flashes or night sweats? Perhaps it's time to remake your dinner plate as a way to battle these uncomfortable experiences.

A new large study out of Kaiser Permanente's Northern California Division of Research has found that menopausal women who drop pounds through a low-fat diet that incorporates lots of fruits and vegetables may reduce or even eliminate those pesky clothes-soaking experiences. This study was published in the journal, Menopause.

The study used data on more than 17,473 women who participated in the Women's Health Initiative Study, a research effort started in 1991 by the National Institutes of Health that was focused on the most common causes of death, disability and impaired quality of life in postmenopausal women such as cardiovascular disease, cancer and osteoporosis.

The Kaiser Permanente researchers studied at women who had menopausal symptoms and who were not taking hormone-replacement therapy. Their analysis found that the women who consumed a low-fat diet that included lots of whole grains, fruits and vegetables and who also lost at least 10 pounds in a year were more likely to see a reduction or end of night sweats and hot flashes at the end of that year. In comparison, another group of study participants who also had menopausal symptoms and who were not taking hormone-replacement therapy, but who did not lose weight were found to not have the same reductions in hot flashes and night sweats.

So what exactly is a low-fat diet? The George Mateljan Foundation reports that the current guidelines encourage that fat make up no more than 30 percent of total calorie intake.   However, you need to remember that you DO need to consume some types of fat, such as omega 6-fatty acids.   According to the foundation, dietary fat is essential for five specific reasons:

  • Fat serves as a source of energy.
  • Stored fat helps the body maintain its temperature level and protects vital organs.
  • Dietary fat helps with the absorption and transport of vitamins A, D, E and K as well as other fat-soluble nutrients.
  • Fat makes food taste and feel better. It also gives us a sense of satiety about how full we are.
  • There are two essential fatty acids (the omega 3 fat known as alpha-linolenic acid and the omega 6 fatty acid known as linoleic acid. Both of these are critical for the body's functioning.

Also realize that you can put yourself at risk if you decrease your fat intake too far. Registered dietitian Sarah Haan warned that too little fat in your diet can mean:

  • Poor vitamin absorption. She noted that because if you don't have enough fat to help you properly absorb the above-mentioned vitamins and nutrients, these vital nutrients will be excreted from your body. That leaves you open to having a vitamin deficiency.
  • Depression. Haan notes that both omega-3 fatty acids and omega-6 fatty acids have a role in your mood and behavior. She notes that studies have linked low and abnormal intake of one or both of these fatty acids to depressive symptoms, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, eating disorders and ADHD.
  • Heart disease.   When your diet is too low in fat, your level of HDL cholesterol goes down. "This is problematic because you want your HDL level to be high to help protect against heart disease," Haan warns. "HDL collects 'bad' cholesterol from the blood and transports it to the liver for excretion. When those ratios are out of balance - and when your LDL ('bad' cholesterol) level gets too high, you face cholesterol problems and an increased risk of heart disease."
  • Nutritional imbalance. An unbalanced diet can lead to health problems. For instance, going heavier on carbohydrates can cause you to be hungrier and gain weight, thus increasing your risk of type 2 diabetes. High-protein diets, on the other hand, can put you at risk for osteoporosis.
  • Overeating. Many people think that foods that are classified as "low-fat" or "fat-free" can be consumed without worry about calories. However, that's not always true. Low-fat or fat-free foods that are processed contain added sugars and often have as many calories as full-fat products. In addition, having some fat helps lead to fullness which, in turn, can help stave off hunger pants.

So what should you do? Experts recommend that the best way to do eat a high-quality low-fat diet is through reducing the intake of whole fat dairy products, red meats, trans fats, saturated fats, and high-fat condiments. Instead, try to add avocados, canola and olive oil, almonds, tuna, salmon and flaxseed to your diet.

Sources for This Sharepost:

Haan, S. (N.D.) 6 risks of eating a low-fat diet.

Kaiser Permanente. (2012). Weight loss resulting from a low-fat diet may help eliminate hot flashes and night sweats in menopausal women.

The George Mateljan Foundation. (N.D.). Low-fat diet.