By Molly Rugg

Physicians and neuroscientists at USC are enrolling female volunteers into a National Institutes of Health-funded clinical trial studying the effects of soy supplements on menopause-related hot flashes and memory loss. Sponsored by the Keck School of Medicine of USC and USC School of Pharmacy, the clinical trial will examine how healthy peri- and post-menopausal women tolerate a nutritional supplement called phytoSERM.

PhytoSERMs are a food supplement that contain three different phytoestrogens: daidzen, genistein and equol. Phytoestrogens are naturally occurring compounds derived from plants and function like the primary female sex hormone—estrogen.

Lon S. Schneider, director of the USC Alzheimer’s Disease Research and Clinical Center at the Keck School of Medicine, is principal investigator of the clinical trial, which seeks to determine whether PhytoSERMs are a potential treatment for hot flashes and whether they may prevent or improve age-related memory loss.

“Extensive pre-clinical research by Roberta Brinton, who holds appointments at USC School of Pharmacy and the Keck School of Medicine, shows that the PhytoSERMs’ formulation targets an estrogen receptor sub-type that improves mitochondrial metabolism and memory function in animals,” Schneider said.

Hot flashes, or momentary sensations of heat that may be accompanied by flushing or sweating, are a common symptom experienced by women prior to and during the early phases of menopause. Some women may also experience a rapid heart rate or chills. Hormone changes during the aging process and declining levels of estrogen contribute to the symptoms.

The clinical trial is looking for 78 healthy women for a 16-week randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. That means that half of the women in the study will receive the phytoSERM supplement, while the other half will receive a placebo, but neither the participant nor the researcher will know who receives what until the study’s conclusion. To be eligible, women should be between 48-58 years of age and have experienced age-related memory loss and hot flashes. They should not be utilizing hormone replacement therapy. Selected volunteers will not receive any compensation for participation in the clinical trial.

The study is being conducted at the Memory and Aging Center of the Keck School. For information or to volunteer, contact Nadine Diaz, at (323) 442-5775 or