If the man in your life doesn’t take his health as seriously as you do, you’re not alone, says our nutritional therapist in the know
As the saying goes, men are from Mars… well, I am sure you know the rest, given one very famous book title that has become shorthand for the fact that men and women behave differently. However, did you know that men and women have notably contrasting attitudes to health and nutrition?
When researching my new book about nutrition for men – specifically men in their 40s and upwards – I found many statistics that really underline how differently men behave when it comes to health and nutrition. Some may not surprise you.
It seems that, in addition to making 80 percent of the health decisions for their families, women are twice as likely than men to attend regular medical check-ups and take prescribed medication as directed. When it comes to nutrition, women take smaller bites of food and eat more slowly than men. On the whole, women eat less red meat and take less salt than men, but eat more fruits and vegetables. Women undertake more diets than men do – estimated at 17 times over the lifetime – while, on average, men do so only five times.
Could it be then, that macho identity is the cause for what seems like a lack of interest in their own health? It also feels quite outdated, in this age of awareness and identity, and so I assumed these attitudes would be limited to older men. Yet perhaps not. In 2012, the University of Huddersfield designed a test, creating two diets; one with burger and chips for lunch and pizza and beer for dinner, the other pasta salad and fruit for lunch, with rice, vegetables and a glass of wine in the evening. They asked 200 people about their perceived masculinity and femininity of the diets, and the vast majority chose the first diet as significantly more masculine, and judged men who ate the second as more feminine. The participants were not older people, they were students. Could it be that gender stereotyping is not limited to the older generation, as one might expect, but persists and affects all ages?
You may ask, ‘so what?’ But it is important, as men are more likely than women to experience cardiovascular disease, lung and colon cancer. Then there’s prostate issues. Amazingly, a 2016 survey conducted by Prostate Cancer UK, found that 17 percent of men didn’t have a clue about their prostate gland, while 92 percent who had heard about it didn’t know what it did. Yet prostate cancer is the third most common in Britain, despite only half the population having one.
So, what can be done? My best advice is to cajole and encourage the men in our families to take better care of themselves; to be more involved and not to bury their heads in the sand. It’s highly likely that this task will fall to women (which feels rather unfair and sexist in itself) but the message is that men can do better, however they may need to be told to do so.
Ian is one of the UK’s top nutritional therapists (ianmarber.com). Manfood by Ian Marber (£13.99, Little Brown) is available from Amazon.
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