MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Taulant Muka, MD, MPH, PhD
Department of Epidemiology
Rotterdam, The Netherlands
MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?
Response: Hot flashes, night sweats and vaginal dryness are very common symptoms of menopause, affecting up to 80% of women. Despite the availability of a wide range of pharmacological treatments and the best effort of health care professionals, good control of menopausal symptoms and their adverse effects remains elusive for much of the women. Some women choose hormone replacement therapy to treat menopausal symptoms, but for many others estrogen is not an option as long as some research suggests that it may rise the risk for breast cancer and heart disease. Therefore, 40 to 50% of women in Western countries choose to use complementary therapies, including plant-based therapies. These are many plant based-therapies that have been suggested to improve menopausal symptoms, but there is little guidance about which plant-based therapy is effective.
MedicalResearch.com: What are the main findings?
Response: This systematic review and meta-analysis evaluated a broad range of plant-based therapies, such as phytoestrogens (dietary soy isoflavones, soy extracts, and red clover), black cohosh, Chinese and other medicinal herbs. Sixty-two trials, based on 6653 women, were included in the analysis. We found that oral use of phytoestrogens, such as soy isoflavones, soy extracts and red clover, lead to a modest reduction in the number of daily hot flashes and vaginal dryness score, but did not have any effect in the number of night sweats. Several herbal remedies, but not black cohosh and Chinese medicinal herbs, lead to a modest decrease in the frequency of vasomotor symptoms.
MedicalResearch.com: What should readers take away from your report?
Response: Many women in Western counties try herbs or other products from plants to manage menopausal symptoms. Unfortunately, being “natural” does not always mean a product is useful and safe. Among the available plant-based therapies available to treat menopausal symptoms, only some plant-based therapies, including isoflavones, soy extracts, and red clover, lead to a modest reduction in menopausal symptoms. However, the long-term efficacy and safety of these plant-based therapies is unclear, and healthy lifestyle changes form the backbone for easing the discomfort of your symptoms and keeping you healthy in the long run.
MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?
Response: The majority of the available studies focus on hot flashes, which are the most common symptom of the menopausal transition, but few studies additionally evaluated other menopausal symptoms (e.g. night sweats). Also, there were insufficient numbers of studies on some herbal remedies. Therefore, our review stimulates future research that evaluates the effect of plant-based therapies on a wider range of menopausal symptoms. Furthermore, because of general suboptimal quality and the heterogeneous nature of the current evidence, further rigorous studies with large sample size are needed to determine the role of plant-based therapies on menopausal health. Also, information on any detrimental health effects related to long-term use of these therapies, typically available in long-term intervention studies, is essential.
MedicalResearch.com: Is there anything else you would like to add?
Response: It is very important to discuss any natural or herbal products with the personal doctor before taking them. Also, some plant products can be harmful when combined with certain medications, therefore, it is also important to tell your doctor about any medicine you are taking when considering the use of plant-based therapies.
MedicalResearch.com: Thank you for your contribution to the MedicalResearch.com community.
Taulant Muka, MD, PhD et al. Use of Plant-Based Therapies and Menopausal Symptoms: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. JAMA, June 2016 DOI:10.1001/jama.2016.8012
Note: Content is Not intended as medical advice. Please consult your health care provider regarding your specific medical condition and questions.
More Medical Research Interviews on MedicalResearch.com