Eating more brightly colored fruits and vegetables may help prevent women’s health problems

Women tend to live longer than men, but generally have higher rates of disease. Now, new research from the University of Georgia suggests that these higher rates of disease can be ameliorated by eating a better diet rich in pigmented carotenoids such as yams, kale, spinach, watermelon, bell peppers, tomatoes, oranges and carrots. These brightly colored fruits and vegetables are especially important for preventing visual and cognitive loss.

“The idea is that men get a lot of diseases that tend to kill you, but women get those diseases less often or later, so they persevere but with debilitating diseases,” said Billy R. Hammond, a professor at the UGA’s Franklin College. from the Department of Arts and Sciences in the Behavioral Psychology and Brain Sciences Program and co-author of the study. “For example, of all the existing cases of macular degeneration and dementia in the world, two-thirds are women…these diseases that women have suffered from for years are the most amenable to prevention through of life.”

The study, which reviewed and analyzed data from previous studies, detailed several degenerative conditions, from autoimmune diseases to dementia that, even controlling for differences in lifespan, women experience much higher rates. only men. “If you take all the autoimmune diseases collectively, women make up almost 80%. So because of that vulnerability, which is directly related to biology, women need extra preventative care,” Hammond said.

How does gender affect health?

One of the reasons for this vulnerability has to do with how women store vitamins and minerals in their bodies. Hammond points out that women have, on average, more body fat than men. Body fat serves as an important sink for many dietary vitamins and minerals, creating a useful reservoir for women during pregnancy. This availability, however, means there is less for the retina and brain, putting women at increased risk for degenerative problems.

Dietary intake of pigmented carotenoids acts as an antioxidant for humans. Two specific carotenoids, lutein and zeaxanthin, are found in specific tissues of the eye and brain and have been shown to directly improve central nervous system degeneration.

“Men and women eat about the same amount of these carotenoids, but women’s needs are much higher,” Hammond said.

“Recommendations should be different, but there are, in general, no recommendations for men or women for dietary components that are not directly linked to deficiency diseases (such as vitamin C and scurvy),” Hammond said. “Part of the idea of ​​the article is that the recommendations need to be changed so that women are aware that they have these vulnerabilities that they need to proactively address, so that they don’t have these issues anymore. later in life.”

Carotenoids are also available through supplements, and the National Institutes of Health has focused its resources on specific carotenoids under the National Eye Institute program. And while lutein and zeaxanthin supplements are one way to increase intake, Hammond said taking them through food is a much better strategy.

“The components of diet influence the brain, things like personality to even our self-concept. I don’t think people quite realize how profound an effect diet has on who they are, their mood, even their propensity for anger,” Hammond said. “And now, of course, this extends to the microbiome and bacteria that make up your gut – all of these components work together to create the building blocks that make up our brain and the neurotransmitters that mediate its use.”

Source of the story:

Material provided by University of Georgia. Original written by Alan Flurry. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

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