Take tips from the experts with True Health’s guide to better male health and wellbeing.
We know that men can be less proactive at addressing health concerns compared to women, while the male population can be more at risk of certain health issues. Therefore, placing the focus on their health and wellbeing, and addressing potential risk factors, is a really important step for male wellness. So, what is it that needs to be kept in mind.
Sue McGarrigle, Naturopath, Clinical Nutritionist and Technical Manager at Bionutri, highlighted the issues facing the male population these days.
“One man in five dies before the age of 65 (Men’s Health Forum UK). In England, around one in eight men has a common mental health problem such as depression, anxiety, panic disorder or obsessive-compulsive and men aged 40-49 have the highest suicide rates in the UK disorder (Mental Health Foundation). Four million males are living with heart and circulatory disease (BHF),” Sue advised, adding that the number of men living with cancer and type 2 diabetes is on the rise.
She went on: “Men are more vulnerable to Covid-19; the mortality rate for men is more than 50 per cent higher than it is in women, overweight, have certain pre-existing conditions (like diabetes and lung or heart disease),have a weaker immune system for whatever reason (perhaps treatment for an illness like cancer), or, come from certain ethnic groups – the mortality rates for black/black British people and Asian/Asian British people are more than twice the mortality rate for white people (Men’s Health Forum UK).
But although this may present a stark picture in terms of male health, it also reinforces the importance of keeping generally healthy to act as a preventative.
So, what do you need to know in terms of the most important dietary factors for men to consider?
Sue suggested: “The UK National Diet and Nutrition Surveys of nutrient intake and nutritional status published in 2019 have shown a sustained worsening of the dietary intakes and chronic shortages of several of the nutrients involved in supporting normal immune function, including vitamin D, vitamin B12, zinc, selenium, copper and vitamins A and C. Low intakes of these essential nutrients over a nine-year period are evident in the general population of all age/sex groups.
“Fibre remained well below current recommendations – only around one in three of UK men meet the five a day fruit and vegetables portion. We need at least one portion (around 140g when cooked) of oily fish a week, but on average men in the UK eat much less than this.”
And what is it that men have a heightened need for in terms of key nutrients.
“It depends on each individual and their different health issues, age and needs but generally men need omega 3 fatty acids, vitamins A, B6, B9, B12, C, D and E and the minerals, zinc, selenium, magnesium and calcium to support immune, heart, eye, musculoskeletal and nervous system health, fertility, and cell health,” Sue suggested.
A holistic approach
In terms of the best diet, a generally healthy and balanced approach is recommended, no matter your age or sex. But there are some components that are particularly important for men.
Sue recommended: “Increase fibre and eat a rainbow selection of fruit and vegetables every day. This will not only provide a vast array of nutrients but also promote the growth of the beneficial bacteria in the digestive tract. Men in the UK on average are currently eating 69g of red and processed meat per day. However, there is considerable variation, and some men are eating more than the recommended maximum. If eating a lot of red meat, try replacing some of this with eggs, poultry, oily fish, and plant-based sources of protein such as pulses (beans, peas, and lentils).
“On average, men are eating too much saturated fat and salt and meat products are significant contributors to men’s intakes of both. UK health guidelines recommend that saturated fat should not contribute more than 10 per cent of total energy. Replace saturated fat with some unsaturated fat, so swap to plant/vegetable oils like olive, nut oils and spreads made from them. Unsaturated fats can also be found in avocados, nuts, seeds, and oily fish. Salt intake should be around 6g a day so be careful of levels in bread, ham and bacon, sauces, and gravies, salted snacks, soups and ready meals (BNF).”
And she added: “Avoid refined and processed foods and aim for a wholefood diet. A diet I advocate for men is the Mediterranean diet, which is based around plant-based foods, such as whole grains, vegetables, legumes, fruits, nuts, seeds, herbs, and spices, which are the foundation of the diet. Also, healthy fats including olive oil and fish, rich in omega 3. This supports heart, digestive and cell health as well as the overall health of the body.”
You may also want to add in some specific supplement to address any health concerns you have.
Frank Brogan, Senior Nutritionist at Pharma Nord, turned his attention to the area of fertility, advising: “The recent National Diet & Nutrition Survey statistics indicated that around 25 per cent of UK men might not be achieving the required daily intake of selenium. Whilst selenium is crucial for numerous areas of health, including thyroid health and immunity, it’s also essential for normal spermatogenesis or sperm production.
“Considering that male-factor infertility is cited to be the cause of up to 50 per cent of infertility cases within couples and sperm quality is the cause of 90 per cent of those cases, the importance of adequate selenium intake is crucial. Not only is it helpful for spermatogenesis, but the antioxidant properties of the trace element may also help protect the integrity of sperm cells.
“Why I would recommend selenium supplementation is that food sources aren’t as plentiful here in the UK due to low soil levels (and even imported Brazil nuts aren’t guaranteed to have consistent levels). Selenium-yeast products show better bioavailability and are approved by EFSA to demonstrate better safety profiles than inorganic selenium supplements, so those would be my recommendation.”
And Sue recommended: “A multivitamin and mineral might be considered in the event of any shortfalls in the diet. Omega 3 fish oil, rich in DHA, to support the cardiovascular system and inflammatory responses and a liver support containing dandelion, artichoke and turmeric with liver specific nutrients to help the function of the liver and gall bladder and support lipid and blood sugar metabolism and hormone health.
“Vitamin C to support immunity, connective tissue, and the endocrine glands, and a probiotic containing resident and transient strains of lactic acid bacteria to promote good digestion and immune health.”