The changes extend way beyond the closing down of the baby factory, the sexy curves turn into sagging bits and pieces, bones lose their strength and the female advantage, which kept the blood flowing smoothly through the pipes, wanes as the pipes begin blocking up.
You long to bring the estrogen back…….
But estrogen pills are a potential health hazard, raising the spectre of breast cancer, so you opt for mother nature’s little estrogen package – phytoestrogens.
Soy isoflavones are often touted as the more healthy alternative “treatment” for the menopausal blues.
But are they ?
Phytoestrogens as replacement estrogen therapy
Researchers from University of Miami decided to see just how good plant estrogens were at protecting bone mass.
They enrolled women 45 to 60 years of age who had transitioned into menopause within the previous five years. Before being enrolled in the study, the team checked their bone density to make sure there were no inherent bone troubles – women included in the study were “normal”.
The women were then randomly divided into two groups. Both groups received a supply of tablets.
- one group’s tablet included 200 mg of soy isoflavone in the ingredients,
- the other group’s tablets excluded the soy isoflavone.
NOTE : The design of the study meant that the women did not know which type of tablet she was on, neither did the doctor looking after her. This type of study is a randomized double blind study – it is the best kind of study to do, when you want to compare two different types of treatment.
Boning up using phytoestrogens
A total of 248 women began the study, 122 of them were assigned to the group taking 200 mg of isoflavone daily, the rest (126) were swallowing a “sugar” pill.
Two years later the bone density of the participants was re-assessed and the figures compared to the initial readings. At the time, the women were also asked to describe their experiences taking the tablet.
As expected, the bone density dipped a little in the post-menopausal women. Those women who were loading up with plant estrogens, were no better off than the women not taking the supplement.
At the end of the day, taking a 200 mg of isoflavones every day for two years, did nothing to protect the women’s bones. It also seemed to have very little impact on the extent to which the women experienced hot flushes, both groups reported occasional burning hot moments during the study period.
Phytoestrogens are an imitation
Phytoestrogens chemically speaking, look a lot like the estrogen produced by humans. But just looking a bit like estrogen is not enough – it needs to act like estrogen.
A growing body of evidence suggests soy isoflavones in postmenopausal women are “cheap” imitations – well maybe not so cheap, a months supply could set you back a pretty penny. It probably isn’t worth adding soy isoflavones to your list of things-to-do, to stave off that inevitable bone loss that follows “the change of life”.Soy Isoflavones in the Prevention of Menopausal Bone Loss and Menopausal Symptoms: A Randomized, Double-blind Trial. Archives of Internal Medicine, 2011; 171 (15): 1363 S. Levis, N. Strickman-Stein, P. Ganjei-Azar, P. Xu, D. R. Doerge, J. Krischer
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