In the case of men, as is true of women to a striking extent, food processing and the consumption of refined and processed foods largely account for obesity, diabetes and many other health problems. There is a large overlap between men and women in general nutritional needs, but also some striking divergences, such as in the cases of calcium and iron.
Physiologically, men are better suited to fight or flight than women, but less well suited for handling chronic low-level stress. This suggests that men actually need to be more physically active than women to maintain health, and nutrients should be balanced to reflect both the greater physical activity and the poorer management of stress. Calcium, magnesium, potassium and other nutrients have decreased in many instances between 20 and 90 percent in staple foods over the last 60 years. This means that basic nutrition from grains such as corn and vegetables and from broccoli and tomatoes just is not what it once was.
MORE MAGNESIUM, LESS IRON
For men, bone health in later life is not the issue that it is for women. Calcium is not only is less critical for men, but too much can increase the risk of prostate issues. In contrast, men are more prone to Metabolic Syndrome and inflammation, both of which commonly reflect magnesium status. Iron is not normally needed by men except for those engaging in certain specialized sports, such as marathon racing.
ANTIOXIDANT VITAMINS AND PHYTONUTRIENTS
Men have greater risks for cardiovascular issues and a number of other conditions than do women and thus should incorporate an antioxidant, vitamin and phytonutrient rich diet. Inflammation and oxidized low density lipoprotein are key issues. Higher concentrations of oxidized LDL are associated with increased incidence of metabolic syndrome overall, as well as its components of abdominal obesity, hyperglycemia, and hypertriglyceridemia. It is a good idea to increase consumption of brightly and deeply colored vegetables and fruits, especially various deep-colored berries and green leafy vegetables. Supplements might include anthocyanidins, proanthocyanidins, resveratrol, pterostilbene, quercetin, catechins, curcumin, chlorogenic acid and polyphenols.
SPECIAL NEEDS, PROSTATE HEALTH
Benign prostatic hyperplasia (formerly called hypertrophy) involves the renewed growth in the number of prostate cells late in life. Unfortunately, for men ages 40 to 59, nearly 60 percent are likely to already suffer from BPH. This usually does not present a noticeable problem until after age 50 but by the age of 80, some 85 percent of all men suffer from one or more symptoms of BPH. The primary effect of BPH is a progressive decrease in the ability to empty the bladder as the prostate enlarges and applies pressure to the urethra. Fortunately, prostate cancer is one of the slowest growing of all cancers.
ANTIOXIDANTS, ESSENTIAL FATTY ACIDS AND MINERALS
Prostate problems are far easier to prevent than to deal with after they have manifested. Moreover, especially in the case of prostate cancer, epidemiological studies routinely find that eating more fruits and vegetables is strongly protective, whereas consuming large amounts of milk appears to have a negative impact upon prostate health. The best positive nutrient associations for reducing the risk of BPH are lycopene, zinc, and supplemental vitamin D along with moderate regular alcohol consumption. Flaxseed oil (2 tablespoons daily) can be quite beneficial, as can the regular consumption of pumpkin seeds. Men should avoid margarine, hydrogenated vegetable oils and fried foods whenever possible.
A small number of nutrients have been shown to improve various aspects of performance. These include coenzyme Q-10 and astaxanthin. There appears to be a potential role for certain supplements taken routinely (vitamin C, vitamin E, flavonoids, and L-carnitine) to improve the symptoms of skeletal muscle injury. Grape seed extracts may help prevent bruising and improve performance. Glutamine has become one of the favored supplements by serious male athletes because of its benefits in recovery and in sparing the destruction of lean tissues due to excessive exertion.
Deficiencies in the B-vitamins biotin, inositol, pantothenic acid and PABA are particularly linked to hair loss and to premature graying. A number of nutritionists have suggested that high potency supplementation with the entire range of B vitamins with special attention paid to biotin, inositol and pantothenic acid may prove to be helpful. Vitamin C is important for circulation, but also for the production of collagen, a component of the hair. Coenzyme Q-10 is another antioxidant often suggested to improve scalp circulation. Alpha-lipoic acid similarly appears to be effective and seems to be useful in hair loss if supplemented for at least six months. The amino acid cysteine also supplemented as N-acetyl-cysteine can help to increase the speed at which the hair grows.