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Chilliness: a vasomotor symptom in Japan

Melby, Melissa K. PhD, CPGS, MPhil, MA

doi: 10.1097/gme.0b013e31804ffd81
Articles from the Workshop on "Cross-cultural Comparisons of Midlife and Aging"

Objective: To examine the differences between biomedical and Japanese women's concepts of vasomotor symptoms and the relationships between the symptom of chilliness (hieshō) and menopause status, other vasomotor symptoms, and environmental factors such as soy isoflavone intake and exposure in Japan.

Design: Participants were healthy Japanese women, aged 45 to 55, living in Kyoto and Fukushima prefectures, divided into menopausal groups based on menstrual patterns. Women recalled 82 general health symptoms during the previous 2 weeks and collected finger-prick dried blood spots and matched 24-hour dietary records, which were analyzed, respectively, for isoflavone concentration by high-performance liquid chromatography coulometric electrode array detection and for soy isoflavone intake using a Japanese phytochemical database.

Results: An examination of kōnenki (Japanese for climacteric) symptoms suggests that chilliness (hieshō), which was reported by 29.3% of participants compared with a range of 3.0% to 22.1% for hot flushes, constitutes an important vasomotor symptom. Chilliness prevalence differed significantly between premenopausal and other menopausal status groups, with positive correlations with other estrogen-influenced sexual-vasomotor symptoms and negative correlations with isoflavone concentrations. Negative correlations with soy isoflavone intake were also found for sweating, although not for nobose and hoteri (two Japanese terms for hot flush).

Conclusions: Chilliness seems to be a more important vasomotor symptom than hot flushes and sweats in Japanese women and may reflect differing thermoregulatory physiology, possibly influenced by dietary soy.

The symptom hiesho (chilliness) seems to be a more important vasomotor symptom than hot flushes and sweats in Japanese women and may reflect differing thermoregulatory physiology, possibly influenced by dietary soy.

From the National Institute of Health and Nutrition, Tokyo, Japan.

Received September 15, 2006; revised and accepted February 20, 2007.

Funding/support: Supported in part by grants from the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research, Woodrow Wilson-Johnson & Johnson Fund for Women's Health, Emory University Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, the U.S. National Science Foundation (BCS0117097), the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare (H13-Health-015, H15-Cancer Prevention-061), U.S. National Institutes of Health National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine National Research Service Award (1 F31 AT01041-01), Fuji Foundation for Protein Research, and the Mary Ellen Sarbaugh Fund for Research on Women's Health.

The contents of this article are solely the responsibility of the author and do not necessarily represent the official views of any of the above granting agencies.

Financial disclosure: None reported.

Address correspondence to: Melissa Melby, PhD, CPGS, MPhil, MA, National Institute of Health and Nutrition, 1-23-1 Toyama, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo 162-8636, Japan. E-mail: melissamelby@yahoo.com

©2007The North American Menopause Society