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Study clouds evidence on soy and menopause


5 Star

Study clouds evidence on soy and menopause

Our Review Summary

Overall, this story addressed our criteria.

The big picture is that this is a small study, funded by pharma that showed a benefit for soy.  Put in the context of the many randomized clinical trials that have looked at this issue over the past decade, there are questions about this finding, and the story puts those doubts in readers’ minds.


Why This Matters

Many women may not feel comfortable taking hormone replacement therapy to relieve symptoms of menopause, but are interested in something to reduce uncomfortable symptoms.  However, studies of supplements or over-the-counter remedies need to be conducted in the same populations for which the products are marketed.

It’s interesting that this study in China showed a benefit.  Historically, anthropologic studies of Asian women have reported that they don’t tend to report hot flashes. Whether this is due to high estrogen in the diet (e.g., soy) or to cultural/communication factors is not known.  Multiple randomized clinical trials in the US and Europe have showed no benefit from soy despite many attempts to find one.


Does the story adequately discuss the costs of the intervention?


Soy supplements are over the counter so the price may vary.  Story cites estimate.

Does the story adequately quantify the benefits of the treatment/test/product/procedure?


There was a discussion about the reductions of symptoms among patients in the study in both relative and absolute terms.  Would have liked a better idea if the levels in the study among Chinese women are what American women also experience.

In most prior studies of hot flashes, the frequency has been much higher in study subjects – more like 5 – 10 per day, not per week.  So, as commenter in story notes, these Chinese women were not very symptomatic compared to their American counterparts.

Does the story adequately explain/quantify the harms of the intervention?


There was a brief mention of harms that the National Institutes of Health list for soy supplements, but no mention of side effects experienced by women in the study.

Does the story seem to grasp the quality of the evidence?


The story did highlight the sample size was small and the number of hot flashes reported by the women in the study was low.

Does the story commit disease-mongering?


The story did not commit disease mongering.

Does the story use independent sources and identify conflicts of interest?


The journalist interviewed an American researcher who did not agree with the study results and had conducted other studies using soy supplements and did not find any significant effects.  Also, it was stated the supplements in the study were provided by Frutarom Netherlands – a private company that sells soy supplements over the counter in the U.S.

Does the story compare the new approach with existing alternatives?


The story states that “The standard drug treatment for stubborn menopause symptoms is hormone replacement therapy. But doctors and women have become increasingly wary of that option because of serious side effects such as increased risk for heart attack, stroke and breast cancer.”

Does the story establish the availability of the treatment/test/product/procedure?

Not Applicable

Not applicable.  Soy supplements are over-the-counter products sold in most health stores.

Does the story establish the true novelty of the approach?


The story at least establishes that there has been other past research on soy supplements and hot flashes, quoting an American researcher.

Does the story appear to rely solely or largely on a news release?


The journalist sought out another expert in the field who had conducted similar studies in the U.S. without the same findings.

Total Score: 9 of 9 Satisfactory


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