Study: Eat This and Reduce Hot Flashes and Midlife Depression
Posted May 05 2009 6:02pm
New research from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition shows a common food compound can ease both the hot flashes and depression common to midlife changes in women. Here’s what you need to know – Colette Bouchez
As the witty – and clearly prophetic – actress Bette Davis once quipped: “Gettin’ old ain’t for sissies”. While I’m not sure how old she was when she said it, I’m guessing the menopause years might have been on her mind.
Now, two new Canadian studies promise to take the sting out of at least two of the most troubling side effects of menopause – hot flashes and depression. And doing so may be as simple as including one simple nutrient in your daily diet.
That nutrient: an omega 3 fatty acid compound known as ethyl-eicosapentaenoic acid - or E-EPA for short.
Indeed, in the first study - a randomized clinical trial just published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition - a daily intake of a supplement containing just 1.05 grams of E-EPA, plus 0.15 grams of ethyl-docosahexaenoic acid offered a promising new alternative treatment for midlife depression.
A second study garnered from the same research group promises the same supplementation also impacts hot flashes – with results to be be published in the journal Menopause in March. Both studies are believed to be the first of their kind .
“To our knowledge, the current trial is the first to compare the effect of ethyl-eicosapentaenoic acid omega-3 supplementation with placebo on [psychological distress] and depressive symptoms in middle-aged women,” wrote lead author Michel Lucas in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
“Because EPA and DHA supplements have beneficial outcomes on cardiovascular diseases, have no serious side effects, and might be helpful in reducing hot flashes, research should be encouraged in middle-aged women with PD and depressive symptoms,” added Lucas. Depression & Hot Flashes: Better Control
The research involved 120 menopause-age women all of whom were diagnosed with mild to moderate depression. Additionally, at least one quarter of the women had experienced at least one major depressive episode.
A the start of the 8 week study the women were randomly divided into two groups – one to receive the omega 3 supplement, the other to receive a placebo supplement of sunflower oil.
The result: While the women who had suffered more severe forms of depression saw little improvement with the EPA supplement over placebo, those experiencing the much more common menopause-related mild to moderate depression saw a significant decrease in symptoms over the 8 week study period.
These results reinforce those published last year in the Journal of Affective Disorders by a group of Norwegian researchers. Here studies on some 21,000 people found that long-term intake of omega-3 fatty acid-rich cod liver oil appeared to reduce the risk of depression.
The second leg of the new research looked for the impact of the same omega 3 supplement on hot flashes in the same group of women.
At the start of the study the women reported a moderate amount of hot flashes – about 3 per day. After 8 weeks on the omega 3 supplement, the incidence of flashes was cut by nearly half – compared to almost no decrease seen in those taking the placebo . Eat Your Way To A Healthier Menopause.
While taking an omega 3 supplement may be one approach to combating menopause symptoms, many nutritionists believe you can garner similar effects by loading up your diet with foods rich in omega 3 fatty acids.
Among the most potent are fatty fish – such as salmon, sardines and mackerel . What's more you only need about 6 ounces a couple of times a week to start seeing results.
And while many other foods such as s walnuts, flax seed oil, and some mayonnaise brands also claim to offer a high level of omega-3 fatty acids, nutritionist Elizabeth Somer, RD cautions you might not be getting the benefits you think.
“What you get in foods like walnuts and flax seed oil is an omega-3 acid known as ALA -- alpha-linoleic acid,” says Somer. While it’s good for your health, she says, in order to gain the menopause benefits of omega 3 it requires the body to convert ALA it to DHA – the kind of omega 3 found helpful in the menopause study.
The problem with the conversion, says Somer, is a variety of individual health factors, including our overall nutritional status, can hamper that process, leaving youwith less protection – and less symptom relief than you might think.
The good news: There are a variety of foods now available that are fortified with DHA so no conversion process is necessary. These include certain brands of eggs, egg whites, soymilk, whole wheat bread and cereal. Make sure you read the label to find out if your brand o these foods is offering these special benefits.
Also remember, you can take a omega 3 supplement , alone or in conjunction with the omega-3 rich foods.
For the latest information on foods that help symptoms of menopause - as well as a variety of natural treatments for hot flashes pick up a copy of The Hot Flash Solution by healthy lifestyle expert Colette Bouchez.