Equol Decreases Hot Flashes in Postmenopausal Women: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Clinical Trials

J Med Food. 2019 Feb;22(2):127-139. doi: 10.1089/jmf.2018.4265. Epub 2018 Dec 28.


Soy isoflavones may benefit some, but not all, menopausal women, and the ability of the women to produce equol may be the major determinant of effectiveness. We assessed the efficacy of soy isoflavones and equol for alleviating menopausal symptoms, especially vasomotor symptoms, in postmenopausal women who were equol producers and nonproducers by using systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized clinical trials (RCTs). We searched 12 English, Korean, and Chinese language scientific and medical databases. We selected all available RCTs that assessed the effect of equol, either equol itself or soy isoflavone in equol producers, on menopausal symptoms in peri- or postmenopausal women. The primary outcome was the effect on hot flashes. The severity of hot flashes was determined by the scores, and sensitivity and risk of bias analyses were conducted. Other outcomes of the review, but not meta-analysis, included depression and adverse events. Six studies (779 total subjects) met all criteria for the systematic review, 5 of those could be included in the meta-analysis (728 total subjects). Two studies included in the meta-analysis reported no statistically significant benefits of equol; the other three did report significant benefits of equol. Meta-analysis revealed a significant benefit of equol for lowering hot flash scores and revealed a generally low risk of bias. In conclusion, this study found that supplementing equol to equol nonproducers significantly lowered the incidence and/or severity of hot flashes in menopausal women.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Dietary Supplements
  • Equol / pharmacology
  • Equol / therapeutic use*
  • Female
  • Glycine max / chemistry*
  • Hot Flashes / prevention & control*
  • Humans
  • Isoflavones / pharmacology
  • Isoflavones / therapeutic use*
  • Middle Aged
  • Phytoestrogens / pharmacology
  • Phytoestrogens / therapeutic use*
  • Phytotherapy*
  • Plant Extracts / pharmacology
  • Plant Extracts / therapeutic use
  • Postmenopause*


  • Isoflavones
  • Phytoestrogens
  • Plant Extracts
  • Equol