While we have probably all heard that good nutrition can improve mood, energy levels, muscle mass, bone density and reduce the risk of many chronic diseases. However, it’s less well-known that nutrition can specifically help with men’s health conditions, such as low testosterone levels, erectile dysfunction, and prostate cancer.
These health conditions are by no means rare: approximately 50% of men over 40 years old have low testosterone levels (clinically known as hypogonadism) and erectile dysfunction and roughly 15% of men will develop prostate cancer in their lifetime. Even if these are not concerns now, proactively making lifestyle changes to prevent them occurring in future is important.
Ageing and excess body fat are thought to be the main causes of low testosterone levels and erectile dysfunction. Roughly 80% of men with erectile dysfunction are above the healthy BMI range and men classified as obese have almost double the odds of developing erectile dysfunction compared to those at a lower weight. Around half of low testosterone cases are also reported as obesity related.
More positively, weight loss via lifestyle changes, medication, or surgery, has consistently shown to significantly improve erectile function and normalise testosterone levels. This means that any sustainable dietary pattern that promotes reduction in body weight is likely helpful for male-specific health concerns, particularly for men who are currently overweight.
There are many effective approaches to weight loss, and they all tend to share one common feature. That is, a restriction of highly processed and calorie-dense foods (bakery items, crisps, sweets, and fried foods) and a prioritisation of more natural, unprocessed ‘one ingredient’ foods (fruit, vegetables, fresh meat and fish, legumes, nuts, seeds, whole grains and low-fat dairy products). Until the bulk of the diet is based on the latter, many people will find it difficult to achieve and maintain a healthy body weight. Less processed foods tend to be less calorie-dense and more nutrient-rich, which will help to keep you fuller for longer and indirectly reduce your calorie intake.
To support the above changes to food type, other helpful tools for weight loss include meal planning, food logging, mindful eating and making more time for cooking. Sharing your new goals with friends and family can also help to stay disciplined and accountable.
All cancers are complex, yet there is reason to believe that saturated fat and processed meats might be linked to an increase the risk of prostate cancer. Fatty and processed meats are relatively overconsumed in Western countries and swapping some amount of these for foods associated with cancer prevention is advised: such as fish, legumes and soy proteins (tofu and tempeh). Other foods linked with cancer prevention are those high in either fibre, antioxidants, or phytonutrients, which is a scientific way of saying to eat more plants! Focus on getting your 5 a day from a variety of colourful fruits and vegetables. You will notice that many of these recommendations for preventing prostate cancer are similar to those for weight loss, too, making it easier to approach practically.
In terms of general health, it’s important to note that men have an increased prevalence of certain nutrient deficiencies compared to females:
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Not only does nutrition relate to general health, but it also has an important role in male-specific health issues. Eating a well-balanced diet based primarily on unprocessed foods, mostly plants, will help to support a healthy body weight, correct deficiencies and help address male-specific health concerns. To find out about our services, visit the link here.