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Food for Life: Options for MenFood for Life: Options for Men

November 1, 2001

5 Min Read
Food           for Life: Options for Men

Food Product Design

November 2001
Nutrition Notes Food for Life: Options for Men
By Angela M. Miraglio, MS, RD
Contributing Editor

Some men eat to live and some live to eat. Many associate protein with strength and power. In their search for muscles, they frequently turn to amino-acid/high-protein mixes. Fruits and vegetables are truly side dishes that accompany a large serving of meat. For male athletes, sports drinks practically constitute another food group.
How healthy are these patterns of eating? Do men have unique nutritional needs? The first question is easy to answer — it has been well-documented that a healthful diet includes ample fruits, vegetables and grains combined with small to moderate amounts of meat and dairy products.
The answer to the second question is slowly being uncovered. Men’s nutrition-related health problems begin with the No. 1 killer: heart disease. Next are prostate and colorectal cancer, and stroke. Following a diet that meets the current dietary guidelines offers advantages in prevention and treatment of these diseases and others.
Take heart
The latest heart disease and treatment guidelines from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, Bethesda, MD, stress therapeutic lifestyle changes (TLC) involving diet, physical activity and weight management as the first line of treatment for those at risk for coronary artery disease. The TLC diet lowers daily fat recommendations to less than 7% of calories from saturated fat and less than 200 mg of dietary cholesterol, and allows up to 35% of calories from total fat if it’s mostly unsaturated.
Other therapeutic options include adding soluble fiber (10 to 25 grams daily) and plant stanols/sterols (2 grams per day). According to Diane Quagliani, RD, spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association, Western Springs, IL, “These goals can be accomplished by choosing a diet that includes plenty of fruits, vegetables and whole grains, such as whole-wheat bread and cereals, oatmeal and brown rice. In addition, some people can choose a margarine made with plant sterols.”
Scientific reports that tout specific food components, such as antioxidants or certain fatty acids, appear almost daily. Frequently, results from these preliminary reports are not reproduced in larger-scale studies. Many researchers conclude that foods are the best sources of these components rather than supplements, because we lack knowledge about all the health-contributing factors in foods.
Curbing cancer
The second and third leading causes of cancer death in men (behind lung) are prostate and colorectal. Research points to dietary fat, especially animal fat, as the culprit in many cancers. For men, high calorie intake and obesity are associated with a higher risk of colon cancer.
Recent studies demonstrate that a low-fat diet and exercise may prevent and slow prostate cancer growth. Other dietary factors that may play a role in preventing prostate cancer are a high intake of whole grains, nuts and seeds, vegetables (especially cruciferous), soy, selenium and vitamin E. Research on minerals’ role, such as calcium, and vitamins, such as folic acid and vitamin D, gives conflicting results regarding colon cancer. However, evidence indicates that dietary fibers, such as wheat bran, inulin and resistant starch, promote a healthy colon.
Scientific evidence is mounting on antioxidants’ cancer-prevention role. Lycopene, lutein and guercetin — a flavonoid found in apples, onions, tea, and other foods — all may prevent and reduce prostate cancer cell growth. Additionally, many studies also associate increased quercitin consumption with reduced lung-cancer risk. As another example, a new almond study indicates that their antioxidants and phytochemicals possibly may help prevent colon cancer.
Striking out stroke
Stroke ranks as the fourth killer of men, mostly due to atherosclerosis. High blood pressure and a diet high in fat and cholesterol can contribute to atherosclerosis development.
The DASH diet lowers high blood pressure and blood lipids, and reduces stroke risk. Featuring eight to 10 servings of fruits and vegetables and two to three servings of lowfat dairy products, the DASH diet is low in saturated and total fat and cholesterol, high in fiber and rich in minerals, specifically calcium, potassium and magnesium.
Healthy eating for men
Clearly a diet low in total and saturated fat and high in fruits, vegetables and whole grains is a common denominator in men’s health. Nutritional research now is elucidating specific food components that are of potential benefit. Frequently, incorporating a variety of foods in a diet that follows current dietary guidelines will provide adequate amounts of the antioxidants and phytochemicals identified as beneficial. The other option is to engineer new products that incorporate or enhance these substances in foods. One such example is current studies that point to phytosterols’ role in preventing benign prostatic hyperplasia, a urinary disease that affects at least 50% of men older than 50.
As our scientific knowledge advances, the industry works to educate consumers and food scientists on health-promoting products, while developing ingredients that address specific concerns. This approach can provide healthful food choices to those men who eat to live as well as those who live to eat.
Angela M. Miraglio is a registered dietitian and Fellow of the American Dietetic Association from Des Plaines, IL. She has extensive experience in trade communications, public and consumer affairs and technical communications, as well as product development and nutritional assessment. Her firm, AMM Food & Nutrition Consulting, provides food and nutrition communications and technical support services to food and beverage companies, and trade and professional associations. She can be reached via e-mail at [email protected].

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