A recent research review suggests that soy supplements can help women find relief from menopausal hot flashes. In the past some individual studies presented conflicting results. For example, last year, a clinical trial of 248 women found no evidence that a soy isoflavone supplement worked better than placebo pills in easing menopausal symptoms. The one consistently supported treatment for menopause is hormone replacement therapy (HRT), and right now, it's very controversial. It is the only treatment specifically approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for hot flashes. But HRT is also linked to increased risks of blood clots, heart attack, stroke and breast cancer. So experts say hormones should be limited to more-severe cases of hot flashes, and that women use them at the lowest dose and for the shortest time possible. So many women look for over the counter options. Soy contains isoflavones, compounds that are thought to have weak estrogen-like effects in some body tissue. It does suggest that soy or soy extracts could help cool hot flashes. For the new study, researchers combined the results of 17 previously published clinical trials. Overall, they found, women who used soy isoflavone extracts had a 21 percent greater reduction in hot flashes compared with women given a placebo. In addition, when they did have hot flashes, they tended to be less severe. The extent of the effects did vary among the different studies but nearly all showed a "pattern" of soy isoflavones working better than a placebo. It is suggested that soy supplements should work within a 4- week timeframe. Some other over-the-counter alternatives are black cohosh and red clover. In a review of the results of 17 clinical trials, the researchers found that women given soy isoflavone extracts typically saw their hot flash frequency decline by about 60 percent. Treatment lasted anywhere from six weeks to six months. The researchers found a similar decline when it came to women's ratings of their hot-flash severity. Overall, women given soy supplements had an advantage over placebo users: their hot flash frequency was 21 percent lower, and the severity of their symptoms was 26 percent lower. It also seemed that extracts with higher doses of the isoflavone genistein worked best. Supplements that had about 19 milligrams of genistein or more were about twice as effective as lower-dose varieties. Researchers recommend women talk to their healthcare providers before they start taking supplements to make sure that the products do not interfere with their other disease states or any other medications they may be currently taking. Yours in good health, Linda Hlivka Clinical Nutritionist