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Friday, February 19, 1999 Published at 13:36 GMT


HRT cakes on the menu

Linda Kearns bakes another HRT cake

By the BBC's Rachel Ellison

Linda Kearns has developed an intriguing alternative to the traditional hormone replacement therapy drugs used to help women cope with the menopause - an HRT cake.

Linda, 53, was prescribed HRT by her doctor when she was having a rough time going through the change of life.

The BBC's Rachel Ellison: A natural alternative for the natural ageing process?
But she was unhappy at the prospect of taking drugs long-term and was anxious to find a natural alternative.

"I had a lot of symptoms, bad hot flushes, night sweats and last year I had a breast cancer scare, and I decided to come off it straight away, and when I did I had all the symptoms a lot worse," she said.

"I decided to do something for myself. I decided to devise a cake which I could have all the nutrients in that I needed and required, and it seems to have worked for me."

The cake also worked for Linda's friends. And it was soon a big talking point for the people of Cleckheaton in West Yorkshire.

[ image: The final product]
The final product
In the UK, two million women take HRT, approximately one in five of those going through the menopause.

However, it is estimated that there are thousands of women who have had problems with HRT.

Symptoms range from anxiety and depression to blood clots and even strokes.

During the menopause, women's oestrogen levels drop.

HRT replaces that oestrogen, thereby delaying the natural ageing process.

Commercial success

An HRT cake might sound unlikely, but ingredients such as seeds and soya are rich in phytoestrogens - natural plant chemicals which mimic female hormones.

The commercial world is prepared to take a chance on it.

As contracts with national supermarket chains are finalised, John Foster's bakery in Mapplewell, South Yorkshire, has been tweaking the recipe and trying out different versions of the cake.

[ image: John Foster bakes the cakes commercially]
John Foster bakes the cakes commercially
Mr Foster said: "I'm a man, I don't get any benefit from this product, but if women who are going through the change of life say this recipe makes them feel better, and I can make it easier for them, I will do it."

Unsurprisingly, not everyone has been won over by the idea that there is a natural alternative to HRT.

The medical establishment says there is no scientific evidence that HRT cakes work.

But word of HRT cake is spreading and demand is expected to go through the roof.

Women in remote areas of Britain and even America and the Middle East are already keen to place their orders for the slice-a-day remedy.

Janet Woodward, of the Menopause Helpline, said: "The helpline have got a database of 10,000 women who need help from HRT products.

"Women are looking for a reasonable alternative."

Mrs Kearns says she is happy she was not only able to help herself, but other women as well.

Studies have shown that long-term use of HRT can provide significant protection against heart disease - the leading killer of women - and osteoporosis.

However, HRT may put some women at a slightly higher risk for breast cancer.

'It may work'

[ image: Dr Marilyn Glenville says the cake may be worth a try]
Dr Marilyn Glenville says the cake may be worth a try
Dr Marilyn Glenville, author of the book, Natural Alternatives to HRT, said: "It is interesting that Linda is using ingredients that have been tested scientifically.

"It may work and women have nothing to lose by trying it. Some studies have shown that just taking soya over a two-week period has allievated hot flushes."

But Professor John Garrow, from the charity Healthwatch, said: "I would have been very much happier if they had given a cake with phytoestrogens to half of their friends, and a cake without phytoestrogens to the other half of their friends, and seen whether the ones who had the phytoestrogens felt any better than the controls.

"I think it is unethical to persuade women who are having trouble with the menopause to buy a cake with phytoestrogens unless you have satisfied yourself that it is the phytoestrogens that do any good."

The cake is made from soya flour, soya milk, pumpkin seeds, raisins, linseeds, sesame seeds, nuts of any kind and extra dried fruit or apple, plus spices if want to vary recipe.

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