LAKE BUENA VISTA, FLA. — Soy supplements improved somatic and urogenital symptoms of menopause to the same degree as did low-dose combination hormone therapy in a small, randomized, double-blind controlled trial.
A total of 60 women who were 1–13 years past menopause were randomized to one of three groups: soy supplements containing about 90 mg of isoflavones; estradiol 1 mg/norethindrone 0.5 mg; or placebo daily.
After 16 weeks, women in the two treatment groups had significant somatic and urogenital symptom improvements, compared with baseline on the Menopause Rating Scale (MRS).
The changes were also significant, compared with scores among women taking placebo.
The findings suggest a role for dietary soy supplementation for improving hot flashes, joint and muscle pain, and vaginal dryness, with results equivalent to hormone therapy, said gynecologist Adriana O. Pedro.
“I thought that hormone replacement would be better than soy—so I was surprised,” said Dr. Pedro, of the State University of Campinas (Brazil), during a poster session at the annual meeting of the North American Menopause Society.
Women taking hormone therapy fared better, however, in terms of cardiovascular health markers. Women on the low-dose combination hormone therapy showed improvement in total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein levels; these levels were unchanged in those who got soy supplements.
In addition, total cholesterol decreased 12%, compared with baseline, in the hormone treatment group but remained unchanged in the soy supplement and placebo groups.
The LDL cholesterol level decreased 18% in the hormone therapy group and, again, did not change in the other groups.
“There was no change with soy—probably because they had normal lipid profiles at baseline,” Dr. Pedro said.
Levels of triglycerides, HDL cholesterol, and glucose; body mass index; blood pressure; and abdominal/hip ratio did not change significantly, compared with baseline, in any group.
Total MRS scores were reduced in all groups by 16 weeks. In addition, follicle-stimulating hormone decreased and 17β-estradiol increased, compared with baseline, but only in the hormone replacement group. Psychological symptoms did not change over the treatment period in the soy, hormone replacement, or placebo groups.
Data analysis is ongoing. “We just analyzed symptoms and lipid profiles so far,” Dr. Pedro said. In the future, they plan to publish additional findings for these postmenopausal women regarding any changes in quality of life, vaginal pH, vaginal cytology, or bladder symptoms.
The study was funded by the São Paulo (Brazil) Foundation for the Support of Research.