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David Baxter

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Having a hot flash? Flaxseed can help: study
Thursday, August 30, 2007
CBC News

Flaxseed's popularity is certainly heating up. A small study has found that eating the grain can decrease hot flashes in postmenopausal women.

The findings of the study, conducted by Mayo Clinic researchers, are published in the summer 2007 issue of the Journal of the Society for Integrative Oncology.

The 29 participants in the clinical trial were women with hot flashes who did not want to take estrogen because of a perceived increased risk of breast cancer. In the preceding four weeks, they also had not taken antineoplastic chemotherapy, androgens, hormonal agents or other herbal supplements, including soy, according to the study's authors.

Flaxseed has shown in previous studies that it has estrogen-like properties, according to the Mayo Clinic.

The women were tracked for six weeks of flaxseed therapy, consisting of 40 grams or about three tablepoons of crushed flaxseed ingested daily, and data were obtained from 21 of the study's participants.

The women 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 per cent over six weeks, and the overall hot flash score decreased an average 57 per cent for the women who completed the trial.

Women in the study also reported improvements in mood, and reductions in joint or muscle pain, chills and sweating.

Hot flashes ? sudden feelings of warmth across the body ? are often accompanied by sweating and reddening of the skin. They are common in women who are going through menopause.

"Hot flashes are a bothersome issue for women experiencing menopause," Sandhya Pruthi, a Mayo Clinic breast health specialist and the study's primary investigator, said in a release. "We hope to find more effective non-hormonal options to assist women, and flaxseed looks promising."

Currently, the most effective non-estrogenic therapy for hot flashes is megestrol acetate and medroxyprogesterone acetate. These drugs have been shown to decrease hot flash frequency and severity by about 85% in placebo-controlled clinical trials.

But many patients and physicians have concerns about the use of hormonal drugs, the study found.
 

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