The study found no significant correlation between the intake of dietary phytoestrogens or fiber and the beginning of menopausal symptoms in women who had not yet experienced menopause when they started the study.
Gold said that a randomized, placebo-controlled trial with a diverse range of women would be necessary to prove any ability of dietary phytoestrogens or fiber to prevent hot flashes and night sweats, but she believes the results of this study suggest that it is unlikely a significant effect would be seen.
Although other studies have looked at dietary soy and menopausal symptoms, this study included more women and followed them for a longer period of time than others did, the researchers said. The study also included people representing a broader range of racial and ethnic groups, including black, Hispanic, Chinese and Japanese women.
Although Asian women tend to report fewer vasomotor symptoms than other women, the typical Eastern diet, thought to be high in phytoestrogens, does not seem to be associated with fewer hot flashes and night sweats.
Gold said she believes there may be subsets of women, due to genetic and metabolic factors, who may benefit more from phytoestrogens than others. And she doesn't discourage women from taking soy products. "If women try it and it works for them, fine," she said.
The study has some limitations.
Dr. Wilma Larsen, chief of the division of gynecology at Scott & White Healthcare in Temple, Texas, is concerned that the study used data the women had written down or remembered.
"Any time you're relying on patients to self-report you're not certain what they're actually doing," Larsen said.<
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