When women experiencing menopause have a hot flash, are calories burned?

by | Oct 14, 2009 11:42 PM ET

You Asked:

When women experiencing menopause have a hot flash, are calories burned? --- Donna, Haughton, La.

Marshall Brain Answers:

Let's start with menopause. Menopause occurs in most women sometime during their 40s or 50s. Technically it occurs when the ovaries stop releasing eggs. The lack of egg production ends a hormone cycle described on this page, greatly reducing the amount of estrogen and progesterone in the body.

That reduction in estrogen is the cause of hot flashes. The technical term is "vasomotor instability". Vasomotor refers to anything that affects the diameter of blood vessels and capillaries. Women who are experiencing hot flashes of experiencing the effects of opened blood vessels, creating the sensation of heat. Some women also experience blushing as a side effect.

Are calories burned? If you look at a research paper like this one, you find that "Core body temperature elevations precede a majority of menopausal hot flushes and serve as one trigger of this heat-loss phenomenon." Since the core body temperature is rising, it is likely that some calories are being burned. The actual number of calories would depend on weight, the duration of the temperature increase, the amount of temperature increase, etc. so it would be hard to pin down an exact figure. But as an example, say a 110 pound woman experiences a one degree C temperature increase for a few minutes. Using information from this page, you can see she would burn about 50 calories. If her temperature rises two degrees C it would be 100 calories. And so on. That gives you some idea of the range of calorie burning taking place.

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