And today’s question, asked by C, goes like this:
I’m fast approaching a certain age, and I’m really worried about the unpleasant symptoms that made my Mum’s life a misery, like hot flushes and sleepless nights. Last week, my aromatherapist told me that women who don’t drink milk escape the menopause. Is this true?
Dear C, I’m afraid there are only two ways to escape the menopause: popping your clogs before you ever sprout your first grey pube, or being born with a full set of goolies between your legs.
But let’s not be pedantic here. We both know that your aromatherapist was on about avoiding the irksome symptoms, which plague many women for several years before the actual menopause, a period known as the perimenopause. The menopause itself, which officially starts once the curse has run dry for good, is pretty uneventful. Mind you, the fact that she put it like she did should have jolted your alarm bells. Most complementary therapists are about as clued up on nutrition as the Pope is on hot waxing.
I have it on good authority that not even the KGB knows how to stop a complementary therapist from spouting spurious dietary advice. And once you’re alone in a room with one, you might as well be a Chinese pro-democracy protester in front of a firing squad – you’re gonna get it, whether you asked for it or not.
Now, I happen to have a vague idea of how the milk-and-menopause gem of a quack line came about.
Epidemiological studies appear to have shown (oy! – no snoring!) that Japanese women glide into middle age like ballerinas through Swan Lake. Not only do they retain their svelte physiques, their moods are as even as elevator music and they always remember where they’ve put their damn car keys.
Why are they such fortunate creatures, you might ask. Well, the scientists noted that one difference between Japanese women and their sweat-drenched, irritable Western sisters was that they hardly ate any dairy products – they are just not part of the traditional Japanese diet. Then they drew bell-shaped curves, adjusted their calculation variables, and debated at length over statistical significance.
All that serious science aside, I doubt I’m the only one left wondering whether Mrs Yokohama may not have been all that comfortable talking about her vaginal dryness to the guy with the clipboard. Neither did she probably care to mention that she felt the ever more frequent urge to wedge the blunt end of a serving spoon into her husband’s gizzard.
Now, in their paper, published in an eminent, peer-reviewed journal, our researchers would have stated that they did not have quite enough information to draw a cast iron conclusion on whether dairy products made women approaching the menopause go bonkers, and that further studies on the subject were required.
But a good headline this does not make.
So, the Daily Mail opted for something like this: “Milklife Crisis – Daily Latte Makes Women Froth at the Mouth!”. Because that’s the kind of science an aromatherapist can understand.