NEW ORLEANS — Doctors may have finally found a cure for hot flashes: a healthy dose of tofu.
Researchers at the American Heart Assn.'s annual scientific meeting Sunday discussed the growing evidence that soybean protein, commonly found in tofu, may indeed relieve the miseries of menopause.
Dr. Gregory L. Burke of Bowman Gray School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, N.C., outlined a study in which women suffering hot flashes reported significantly less intense symptoms after taking soy protein.
The 43 women, ages 45 to 55, suffered at least one bout of hot flashes or night-sweating daily. For six weeks, they added 20 grams of powdered soy protein to their diets, mixing it with orange juice or sprinkling it on cereal. For another six weeks, they did the same with powdered carbohydrate. No one knew until the end of the experiment which they were eating.
The women who took the soy protein had the episodes just as frequently, but they were less severe.
Burke plans another study, involving 240 women and larger doses of soy. Another study, conducted recently at the University of Manchester in England, suggests that soy can also reduce the frequency of hot flashes.
Experts believe the key ingredient of soy protein is phytoestrogen, the plant form of the female hormone estrogen. Human estrogen is widely used to relieve the effects of menopause, but some women are reluctant to take it because of side effects.
Laboratory studies suggest that soy estrogen acts on the same chemical targets in the body that human estrogen affects, although it is 1,000 times less potent.