A New Study Evaluates Non-Hormonal Treatments For Hot Flashes

The benefits of aerobic exercise and the more mindful practice of Yoga to our mental and physical health are well studied and undeniable. They can help us stay agile, healthy and fit well into our later years.  But there is one thing that Yoga – and physical exercise in general – can’t help with at all and that’s hot flashes.

It’s disappointing news, but not surprising. It seems that a lot of purported remedies for hot flashes, such as flax seed, botanicals like Black Cohosh, acupuncture, and deep breathing, have failed to show any benefit when put through the rigors of a scientific study.

This latest clinical trial comes from a NIH-funded initiative called MsFlash (Menopause Strategies: Finding Lasting Answer for Symptoms of Health), that established a research network to conduct clinical trials of promising treatments for the most common symptoms of the menopausal transition such as hot flashes, sleep disorders, and sexual function. In this particular study, investigators took a close look at the effect of exercise, the practice of Yoga and Omega 3 supplements on vasomotor symptoms (hot flashes and night sweats).

Nearly 250 post-menopausal women participated in five cities (Boston, Indiana, Oakland, Philadelphia and Seattle). Their average age was 54 and they reported seven to eight hot flashes a day. Women assigned to the exercise group received aerobic conditioning three times a week in a supervised setting for 12 weeks and even had a personal trainer to get them to the most effective level of intensity.

Though the rigors of exercise didn’t do a thing for their hot flashes, there were some important benefits. The participants concluded the program in better fitness than when they started, and there was a noticeable improvement in their sleep and depression. Ditto for the women who were assigned to the Yoga classes. Twelve weeks of 90 minute classes involving as many as 13 postures and deep breathing didn’t help with hot flashes either. But when it came to different measures for sleep and depression, the benefit was even greater than realized in the aerobic exercise group.

Finally, despite earlier studies that showed possible benefits of Omega 3 fatty acids on hot flashes, the women who took 1.8 grams daily of high-quality fish oil in this MsFlash study saw no improvement whatsoever in their hot flashes, sleep or depression.

The findings of this clinical trial were presented at the recent conference of the North American Menopause Society (NAMS). They will be published early next year.