Pomegranate seed oil 'no better than a placebo' at easing hot flushes
Study shows menopausal symptoms may be due to psychological as well as hormonal changes
Pomegranate seed oil is a popular alternative remedy for women seeking relief from menopausal symptoms.
It was thought that because it is rich in plant compounds called phytoestrogens, these would mimic estrogen in the body.
However, the first clinical trial of the treatment has found that women taking the supplement twice a day for 12 weeks got no more relief than women taking a placebo pill containing sunflower oil.
Pomegranates: A good source of vitamin C and B5, but it doesn't ease menopausal symptoms
'Like many herbal remedies, there's no clear evidence that it is effective at reducing menopause symptoms,' said Dr Silvina Levis, from the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine in Florida.
Previous research has found that soy supplements and red clover extract, which also contain phytoestrogens, are not effective at reducing menopause symptoms like mood swings and hot flushes.
As many as 85 per cent of menopausal women experience the symptom many times a day – a sensation of heat, often accompanied by sweating, rapid heartbeat and anxiety, according to past studies.
In the current study, researchers led by Dr Leo Auerbach at the Medical University of Vienna, in Austria, followed 81 postmenopausal women between the ages of 45 and 60. All women experienced a minimum of five hot flushes a day and had gone at least 12 months since their final menstrual period.
Each participant kept a daily diary of menopause symptoms and took two 30-milligram capsules of pomegranate seed oil or placebo pills daily for 12 weeks. At the start and the end of the study period, the researchers also tested the women's hormone levels.
At the beginning of the study, women in the treatment group reported having an average of 11.1 hot flashes a day, and women in the placebo group reported 9.9 hot flashes each day, on average.
After 12 weeks, the women taking pomegranate seed oil saw a nearly 39 per cent reduction in hot flashes, to 6.8 per day, while women in the placebo group saw a drop of nearly 26 per cent, to an average of 7.3 hot flashes a day.
Though women in both groups saw a marked decrease in the frequency of their hot flashes, the 13 percent difference between the effects seen in the two groups was too small to credit pomegranate seed oil with any real benefit.
Because both sets of women saw an improvement, it was likely attributable to the so-called placebo effect in both groups, according to the researchers.
This suggests that menopausal symptoms may be due to psychological as well as hormonal changes, Dr Auerbach said.
The study found no differences between the participants in their hormone levels before and after the 12-week treatment, however women on pomegranate seed oil did report a statistically significant improvement in their sleep quality.
The study, published in the journal Menopause, was funded by German herbal supplement maker, PEKANA, which also supplied the supplements.
The NHS says Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is effective in treating several of
the most common menopausal symptoms, including hot flushes and night
sweats, vaginal symptoms and cystitis.
However, studies have also found HRT slightly increases the risk of developing breast cancer, endometrial cancer, ovarian cancer and stroke if taken long-term.