Eastern Wisdom? Women can reduce menopause symptoms by learning from the Japanese

Women can dramatically reduce menopausal symptoms and risk factors for heart disease by living more like their Japanese counterparts, say Australian researchers from Queensland University of Technology (QUT). Investigators Dr Debra Anderson and Vicki Kain have been trialing a drug-free lifestyle intervention program with 120 midlife and older Queensland women since February. Dr Anderson said while it was widely acknowledged that Japanese women suffered less from menopausal symptoms than Western women, this was the first study to show that there were advantages to women adopting Japanese diet and lifestyle habits.

“Japanese women are regarded as the healthiest women in the world, averaging a life span at least five years longer than Western women,” she said.

Diet and lifestyle changes recommended in the program include “drinking plenty of water, increasing calcium intake and in particular including foods high in phytoestrogens in their daily diet – soy-based products, fresh fruit and vegetables, tofu, and grains such as linseeds and wholegrain breads.” Daily exercise, such as walking or weight training, is also recommended.

Dr Anderson said women in the trial had reported a reduction in menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes and palpitations as well as in feelings of depression, fatigue and lack of motivation, plus improved bladder tone and reduced symptoms of incontinence.

Importantly, she said, the program impacted on weight loss, reduction in waist and/or hip circumference and blood pressure reduction, well-known risk factors for heart disease.

“Some of the women have ceased hormone replacement therapy, or are considering doing so and we have encouraged them to discuss this with their GP,” Dr Anderson said.

Queensland University of Technology, Oct 14, 2003