Men and women are different. Physiological, anatomical, and hormonal dissimilarities between men and women dictate the type of nutrients and their dosages required by these two sexes.
In most cases, it’s women who lack nutrients such as vitamins and minerals. Blood loss due to menstruation, childbearing, childbirth, and certain cultural barriers are the primary causes of these deficiencies. For this reason, most research and reports focus on women’s health. However, men can be equally susceptible to nutritional insufficiencies as women and in some instances, they can be even more vulnerable than women.
For instance, a study done in the UK reports that being male increases the risk of having a vitamin D deficiency. As another research found out, vitamin D deficiency, in particular, can be seen in older men and can especially be linked to a higher BMI.
This can be due to various reasons. The variations between men and women can be explained by lifestyle factors. One report points out that, statistically, men are more likely to lead unhealthy lifestyles than women: they drink more alcohol, smoke, and eat a less healthy diet. According to a NHS survey fewer men than women eat the recommended five-a-day.
These can contribute to lower vitamin and mineral consumption and absorption, thus resulting in higher deficiency rates. As men get older, nutrient absorption slows down and certain medications can also get in the way.
In addition, men can be especially prone to some health conditions such as heart disease, prostate cancer and baldness. While hormones and genetics play a role in these conditions, studies suggest that there are underlying nutritional deficiencies.
Here we discuss a few micronutrients that are especially important for men’s health.
Folic acid (Folate)
If this comes as a surprise, we don’t blame you. Folic acid is mainly promoted as an essential nutrient for pregnant women and its importance for men is often overlooked.
It has been reported that people with depression have low serum folate levels and low folate intake than those who don’t have depression. Supplementing with folic acid has been found to increase the efficacy of antidepressants.
Folic acid also improves heart health by facilitating blood flow and reducing risk factors such as high blood pressure.
The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) claims that folate also plays an important role in reducing tiredness and fatigue, and in amino acid synthesis.
According to the EFSA, vitamin D contributes to immune function, healthy inflammatory reactions, and muscle function.
Specifically, in men, vitamin D deficiencies are associated with erectile dysfunction (ED). Vitamin D supplementation has been found to increase testosterone levels in men and it is recommended for men who suffer from ED.
Omega fatty acids such as DHA and DPA help to maintain healthy blood triglyceride levels, thus promoting heart health. They also help to regulate the blood pressure and may protect against cancer. DHA in particular has been found to be effective in treating brain, behavioral, and mood disorders.
As men are more prone to heart diseases than women, supplementing with omega acids can have a beneficial effect on them.
Especially in men, vitamin B12 has been shown to bring about noticeable improvements to the male reproductive system. It is known to increase sperm quality and the function of the male reproductive organs.
Zinc is a mineral that is found to be deficient in older people—especially elderly men. Zinc deficiencies are associated with low testosterone levels in both elderly and young men and zinc supplementation significantly improved testosterone concentrations.
Low zinc levels are also associated with prostate enlargement and prostate cancer and maintaining enough zinc levels is important to prevent prostate diseases.
Selenium is another mineral that may protect against prostate cancer. Selenium is also essential for sperm cell development, thus playing a major role in male fertility. In addition, selenium helps maintain healthy hair and nails and is also important for thyroid function.
However, studies indicate that dietary intake of selenium has gone down in the UK in the past years.
Vitamin A is another nutrient that is important for sperm cell development and for the function of the male reproductive system. It also aids growth and development making all the major organs operate properly.
Like women, men have specialized nutritional requirements which are important for their physiological function. They can benefit from supplements that include but not limited to the vitamins and minerals we discussed above.