MEN, HEALTH AND NUTRITION

It’s tough being a man!

According to the Centre for Disease Control (CDC) in the USA, men, from infancy onwards, are more at risk from the top causes of death than women are. In fact, there are more boys born than girls to take this into account!

The major causes of death include heart disease, cancer, stroke, lung disease, diabetes, influenza, kidney disease and Alzheimer’s disease.

It doesn't have to be this way. All these diseases can be prevented, or at least delayed in onset, provided people pay attention to their health as a life-long commitment.

Men behaving badly

The tragedy is that many men don’t pay enough attention to their health.

The CDC also reports that they are more likely than women to engage in behaviours that are detrimental to their health.

For example, 23 percent of men smoke, 70 percent of those 20 years of age or older are overweight; and 26 percent of those 20 years of age or older have hypertension.

Smoking is undoubtedly a major contributor to cancer and lung disease.

Being overweight contributes significantly to heart disease and diabetes, and it may also contribute to depression, erectile dysfunction (ED), a faulty immune system and even renal failure.

Hypertension is a significant risk factor for heart disease, diabetes and stroke.

And being sedentary affects health in all sorts of negative ways including ED. Imagine this: those who exercise vigorously have 30% less chance of developing this condition than those who are inactive! And even mild exercise such as a daily brisk walk reduces the risk by 15%.

Men behaving sensibly

Fortunately there are things one can do to reduce the likelihood of getting these health problems in the first place, and perhaps lessen their impact if you already have them.

Prestigious organisations like the Harvard Medical School strongly recommend that everyone should be supplementing their diets with certain basic nutrients.

Men especially should be doing this, but many are not quite sure what supplements they need.

Here are a few nutrients and what they can do...

Vital nutrients

* Antioxidants protect our cells (and hence the whole body) against oxidative damage.

Oxygen is of course vital for life – without it, we die. But, as with everything else exposed to oxygen, it can have damaging side-effects. For example, metal rusts, and an engine that burns a mixture of fuel and air will give off toxic exhaust gases.

The oxygen that we breathe also causes oxidative damage, and that is a factor in problems like heart disease, stroke and cancer. We need to counter that damage with anti-oxidants.

* Carotenoids are vitally important antioxidants. Lycopene (found in tomatoes, watermelon and red guava) is of particular interest to men as it protects against prostate cancer.

* Vitamin C is another essential antioxidant which plays a role in managing diabetes, stroke risk, low immunity and reduced cognitive abilities as in Alzheimer’s disease.

Smokers must definitely increase their Vitamin C intake.

* Vitamin E is essential to protect the cardiovascular system and the brain against oxidative damage. It has been shown to reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke, boost the immune system, and protect against heavy metal toxicity.

* Essential oils keep our cells (and therefore our whole bodies) in good condition.

Each cell is enclosed by a membrane. Nutrition has to be able to get in so as to produce energy, and toxic waste has to get out. Again, it’s a bit like an internal combustion engine – if the fuel and air inlets are blocked or the exhaust doesn’t flow freely, the engine won’t run efficiently.

The essential oils and fatty acids ensure that our cell membranes will let the nutrition in and the toxic waste (called free radicals) out.

* The Omega 3 oils play a vital role in heart health, in the management of diabetes, arthritis and depression and in lowering the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. They are also essential for maintaining the health of the prostate gland.

Other important nutrients

* Garlic stimulates the immune system and it protects against cardiovascular disease and cancer, notably prostate cancer.

* Flavonoids play another important role. For example, quercetin is essential for a healthy prostate. Catechins decrease the risk of prostatitis and prostate cancer as well as diabetes. They lower blood pressure and inhibit cholesterol oxidation (a cause of cardiovascular disease). They also play a protective role against Alzheimer’s disease!

* Zinc is a vital element for prostate health and fertility, as are Vitamins A, C and E.

* Chromium boosts fat metabolism and muscle activity, and is essential for the management (and possible prevention) of diabetes.

* Selenium reduces the risk of prostate cancer and is essential for male fertility as it aids in sperm motility (movement) so raising the possibility of conception.

* Folic acid for healthy sperm, and also to reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes. It also plays an important role in lowering homocysteine levels (and high homocysteine has been found to be as potentially dangerous as high cholesterol).

WRAPPING IT UP

If men don’t pay enough attention to their own health, it’s not because they are careless or stupid. Many of them are seriously busy with other responsibilities, and aren’t really focused on things like nutrition.

Recommendations

A bit of straightforward advice might be helpful. In addition to a sensible, balanced diet (and cutting out the really damaging things – smoking, excessive alcohol and too much caffeine) we recommend…

* A good multi-vitamin/multi-mineral supplement to provide the baseline of most of the nutrients mentioned above.

* Extra Omega-3 (anyone who isn’t eating oily fish – preferably raw – two or three times a week is not getting enough Omega-3, and it’s really good for all sorts of things from arthritis to heart disease).

* Extra of the other supplements mentioned – carotenoids, flavonoids, vitamins C and E, garlic, selenium and zinc. They are all beneficial.

The question is how many tablets or capsules one can swallow in a day, and how many one can afford. Ideally, take them all.

What to choose?

Affordability is of course a real concern, but don’t stint on quality. Be cautious about cheap options.

Good quality nutritional supplements will be made from good quality, natural ingredients in the normal human food chain. Remember that not every naturally-occurring substance is edible, and some are harmful or even poisonous.

Supplements should also provide nutrients in the correct balance to work effectively in our systems.

Look for supplements produced by a company that has a well-established reputation for its commitment to excellence in the formulation of food-based, scientifically tested products.

They may cost a little more, but then how much does heart surgery or cancer treatment cost these days?

Men who want to know more about the basics of cellular nutrition can find it on our Health Foundations page.