A new study from the summer 2007 issue of the Journal of the Society for Integrative Oncology shows that Flax seed, a rich source of plant omega-3 and lignans, may reduce the frequency of hot flashes by almost 60 per cent. This news could mean that an alternative to black cohash and soy isoflavones is near for the reduction of menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes.
A hot flash is often described as a rush of intense warmth across much of the body that may be accompanied by sweating, reddening of the skin, or, occasionally, cold shivers.
The Mayo Clinic researchers recruited 29 postmenopausal women who suffered from hot flushes and refused to take estrogen because of their belief about an increased risk of breast cancer. They women were assigned to receive daily supplements consisting of 40 grams of crushed flax seed for six weeks. Full data was obtained from 21 of the women.
Participants described the frequency and severity of their hot flashes before and after the trial. The authors report that the frequency of hot flashes decreased 50 per cent over six weeks, and the overall hot flash score decreased an average 57 per cent for the women who completed the trial. The researchers also report improvements in mood, joint or muscle pain, chills and sweating among the participants. Not only does flax seed seem to alleviate hot flashes, but it appears to have overall health and psychological benefits as well.
The researchers proposed that the phyto-estrogen content of flax - most notably lignans - is behind the apparent benefits. Flax seed has been shown in some recent research trials to decrease breast cancer risk.
Research in this field is ongoing. The team hopes to open a new, larger clinical trial in 2008 evaluating flax seed against a placebo to better refine the results, and to hopefully confirm flax seed as a new alternative for hot flashes in women.