The University of The Sciences in Philadelphia Asks, 'Is Soy An Alternative For Hormone Replacement Therapy?'

Norwalk, Connecticut, UNITED STATES

PHILADELPHIA, Aug. 9, 2001 (PRIMEZONE) -- Nearly 80 percent of North American women complain of menopausal symptoms, such as hot flashes, mood swings and sleep disturbance. Hormone replacement therapy helps to relieve these uncomfortable symptoms, but many women are fearful of this intervention since, studies suggested an increased risk of breast cancer. According to Dr. Elena Umland, assistant professor of clinical pharmacy at University of the Sciences in Philadelphia, research efforts have been made to find alternative therapies, such as soy consumption.

"There has been some research that supports women taking certain soy products, which are high in isoflavones, because they work similarly on some estrogen receptors in the body as does traditional hormone replacement therapies," said Dr. Umland. "This is why you may see a reduction in menopausal symptoms in women who use soy products."

This research is based on the dramatic health differences between women in Asian countries and women in Western countries. Women in Asian countries, whose diet includes large amounts of plant nutrients in soy, have much lower rates of menopausal complaints, nearly 20 percent. A recent study focusing on Asian women coming to Western cultures and maintaining their Eastern culture diet found the rates of hot flashes to still be low. It is believed that the isoflavone component of soy helps to decrease hot flashes and other uncomfortable symptoms in post-menopausal women.

So is soy the answer? Dr. Umland says more research, particularly long-term studies, needs to be conducted before women should choose soy over traditional hormone replacement therapies.

"Some patients I interact with say their menopausal symptoms have decreased because of the soy products they are taking, but we don't know the long-term effects of soy," she said. "We don't know how much they should take and if the soy supplements are the same as the soy products Asian women have been using. It's difficult to compare products, strength and dosage forms since the Food and Drug Administration does not regulate soy because it is an herbal product and is considered a food supplement.

"There needs to be a large-group study that compares women who are using soy products to women who are using traditional hormone replacement therapies," she added. "A placebo-controlled comparative trial should be conducted to see if both these therapies impact hot flashes the same and what are their effects are on endometrial tissue and breast tissue. Right now, I would rather see women taking advantage of interventions, such as hormone replacement therapy, that is supported by scientific evidence." To arrange an interview with Dr. Umland, contact John M. Martino at (215) 895-1186, or e-mail at

CONTACT: University of The Sciences in Philadelphia
         John M. Martino
         (215) 895-1186

         Nancy Cunningham 
         (215) 596-8855