Hot Flashes Reduced By Folic Acid

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December 17, 2010

Hot flashes reduced by folic acid

Hot flashes reduced by folic acid

A trial described in an article in the September, 2010 issue of the journal Gynecological Endocrinology found that the B vitamin folic acid significantly reduced the number and intensity of hot flashes experienced by a group of menopausal women.

Hot flashes, characterized by an unpleasant sensation of excessive heat, occur in up to 75 percent of menopausal women and are linked to a reduction in estrogen levels. While hormone replacement therapy is helpful in alleviating hot flashes, some women prefer to avoid it.

Brain release of the hormone norepinephrine (noradrenaline) and its metabolite 3-methoxy 4-hydroxy phenyl glycol (MHPG) has been found to be higher in women who experience hot flashes than in those who do not. Based on the findings of other research, Ayman A. A. Ewies of The Ipswich Hospital NHS Trust in Suffolk, England and colleagues "hypothesised that folic acid could ameliorate hot flushes by interacting with monoamine neurotransmitters in the brain; therefore, this study was conducted to examine the effect of folic acid supplementation on the occurrence of hot flushes and the plasma level of MHPG in postmenopausal women."

The researchers divided 46 women suffering from hot flashes to receive 5 milligrams folic acid or a placebo daily for four weeks. Plasma MHPG levels were measured before and after treatment. Nine of the women (39.1 percent) who received folic acid experienced complete elimination of hot flashes, and 6 (21 percent) had moderate improvement. In the placebo group, only 1 woman experienced a complete response, while 84.2 percent had no benefit. Participants who received folic acid also experienced a corresponding reduction in plasma MHPG compared to levels measured in those who received the placebo. A review of the participants 2 weeks after the end of the treatment period found that hot flashes returned in all subjects who had experienced improvement when supplementing with folic acid.

"To our knowledge, this is the first study to report the effect of folic acid supplementation on hot flushes in postmenopausal women," the authors announce. "Our study suggests that short-term supplementation with folic acid causes subjective improvements of hot flushes in some postmenopausal women probably by lowering the increased central noradrenergic activity as indicated by the reduced plasma level of its metabolite."

"Although the data are encouraging, the long-term merits of folic acid and the ideal dosage have to be assessed in a multi-centre, randomised, placebo-controlled trial of appropriate size and duration," they add.

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Health Concern

Female Hormone Restoration

For most women, menopause is known chiefly through its side effects. Up to 85 percent of Western women experience menopausal symptoms, including hot flashes, night sweats, disturbed sleep, fatigue, and related psychological changes, such as depression and anxiety (Burd et al 2001; Mahady et al 2002; Philp 2003; Soares et al 2003). Physical changes include urinary tract atrophy, vaginal atrophy and dryness with discomfort during sexual intercourse (Burger 2001; Coope 1996; Griffith 2004). These uncomfortable symptoms can last up to five years, with an average duration of two to three years (Samsioe 1995). Other symptoms include the following:

  • Strength, energy, muscle, and bone loss (Notelovitz 2002; Proctor et al 1998)
  • Cognitive changes, such as decreased memory, lack of concentration, and decreased learning capacity (Bhavnani 2003; Duffy et al 2003; File et al 2001; Lephart et al 2002)
  • Elevated cholesterol levels due to alterations in cholesterol metabolism, as well as hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis) and increased blood pressure (Philosophe et al 1991). Estrogen deprivation is a contributing factor to cardiovascular disease, the leading cause of death of women (Brochier et al 1998). It has been hypothesized that elevated cholesterol may be connected to falling hormone levels because the body tries to compensate for lost hormones by increasing the supply of precursor cholesterol (Dzugan et al 2002).

Native American Indians have used black cohosh as a traditional medicine for many years, and Koreans have used it to treat pain and inflammation (Huntley 2004; Kim et al 2004; McKenna et al 2001). Today, it is used primarily for the treatment of menopausal symptoms, such as hot flashes, and menopausal depression and anxiety (Kennelly et al 2002). Black cohosh has also been used to treat younger women who have surgically induced hormonal deficits due to hysterectomy or ovariectomy and for menstrual disorders (McKenna et al 2001). It is effective for reducing hot flashes, night sweats, fatigue, and insomnia (Kronenberg et al 2002; Philp 2003; Pockaj et al 2004).

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