Sthey are different, different nutritional needs, which change differently throughout life. This is the basic premise of gender nutrition which applies the fundamental principles of the so-called to the field of nutrition gender medicine, approach to health which is becoming increasingly popular today.

Breast cancer and nutrition: nine foods allied to prevention
Breast cancer and nutrition: nine foods allied to prevention

The first studies on the subject, which date back to the 1990s, are due to American cardiologist Bernadine Patricia Healy. Since then we have known how important it is, in the field of health, take into account the differences between men and women, from the point of view of disease, risk factors, physiology and, last but not least, the role they play within society.

To understand what it is means by gender nutrition and what its implications are, we asked some questions to the Doctor Hellas CenaVice-Rector of the University of Pavese, surgeon specialized in Food Science, head of the Dietetics and Clinical Nutrition Laboratory of the University of Pavia and of the Clinical Nutrition Unit of the IRCCS Maugeri and member of the scientific committee of SoLongevity, an innovative reality specialized in longevity medicine.

The importance of gender nutrition

Professor Cena, who has been interested for years of the interaction between nutrition, lifestyle and health for the prevention and treatment of chronic-degenerative diseases and eating disorders, focuses attention onThe importance that gender nutrition can have from a female prevention perspective.

«Finally the time is ripe to recognize that needs, even from a nutritional point of view, are different depending on gender – explains Dr. Cena. – In the field of medicine we have always carried out studies and proposed solutions based on the male gender, without considering that, especially nutrition has a decisive influence on pathologies that we get sick most frequently, such as diseases chronic-degenerative. And above all without considering that nutrition plays such an important role as to influence not only the development of these pathologies but also their “transmission” transgenerationalduring the pregnancy».

There are guidelines but they are often little known

There are between men and women differences substantial which, however, do not concern, as is often believed, only the hormonal structure. Men and women have different characteristics from the point of view of phenotypic constitution, from the body fat distribution And of metabolism. Do the guidelines on correct nutrition today take these important differences into account?

«Certainly from a nutritional point of view attention to gender differences it was greater than, for example, the pharmacological field – explains Professor Cena. – I LARNwhich outline the nutritional needs of the general population at different ages and genders, they offer specific indications of different needs. The point, however, is that these indications often remain technical data that is not disclosed correctly, neither to health professionals nor to the general population. That is, they do not translate into practical recommendations».

Increased need for iron already from adolescence

«Nin adolescencewhen little girls reach peak puberty and begin to menstruate, their iron requirement begins to deviate from that of male peers and continues to be different throughout the reproductive years – explains the doctor. – This is just one of the best known examples but it happens for others too nutrients. What’s missing is the correct disclosure which from health professionals, often poorly trained in nutrition, should fall on the population. Thus the indications end up remaining just a technical fact that is not applied».

Men and women: different risk factors

From menarche to menopause, passing through the period of pregnancy and breastfeeding, therefore, a woman should focus on a diet that is as targeted as possible that takes into account the specificity of each of these phases and the needs associated with it. And this is because the correct nutrition represents a fundamental prevention weapon.

“There are risk factors that more frequently affect women and risk factors that affect men more, due to the gender characteristics that influence this aspect – explains Professor Cena again. – We know, for example, that the women of childbearing age are slightly more protected from cardiovascular diseases because the production of female hormones plays a protective role. Ttypically theweight gain in men corresponds to an accumulation of tabdominal adipose tissue, with an increase in waist circumference. In women of childbearing age under the same conditions, however, it is more likely to increase the circumference of the hips and this involves a lower risk of metabolic and cardiovascular diseases».

Gender nutrition and menopause

“But this is not true for life – continues the expert. – When we are approaching perimenopause the situation changes and it is at that moment that the recognition of these aspects and therefore of the importance of a balanced diet that takes into account the physiological weight gain he was born in requirement for some essential nutrientsit can really make a difference.”

In this phase of life, in fact, theenergy intake must be paid attention to as much as the contribution of carbohydrates refined and simple for counteract insulin resistancelike the one of noble proteins iimportant to prevent the loss of lean mass. Equally important during menopause is the intake of lipidswhich they must be qualitatively chosen for their protective function and not harmful to the body. Without to forget vitamins, minerals and antioxidants present in large quantities in products of plant origin.

Differentiated nutrition as protection against aging

A early and targeted prevention through a healthy lifestyle, which also includes timely physical activity, stress control, regular sleep and abstention from smoking or other abuses, it is also important to delay the natural aging process that manifests itself in the female organism earlier than it occurs in the male one.

«Aging is a process physiological – explains Professor Cena. – However, having a correct lifestyle, with a balanced diet throughout your life, it compromises the wear and tear of cells less and allows the individual to undergo slower aging. And above all to a aging that does not become pathologicalthat is, not leads to the early development of chronic-degenerative diseases as diabetes, tumors, cardiovascular or neurodegenerative diseases. In short, all those diseases that tend to develop with aging and which then make the quality of life certainly worse.”

The role of gender nutrition in the presence of a pathology

But if gender nutrition is fundamental from a prevention perspective, it is equally so in the presence of one pathology.

In fact, so-called clinical nutrition should also be personalized depending on the patient and the pathological condition or risk factors. Diet therapy is a primary treatment in the case of allergic pathologiessuch as the systemic nickel allergy that affects many women, and autoimmuneas the celiac disease. As well as in case of nutritional deficiencies due to reduced intake of some nutrients, such as, for example, of vitamin B12 deficiency in those who have a selective diet towards products of animal origin without appropriate integration.

Women and nutrition

Many studies highlight how the The female population pays more attention to nutrition than the male populationa fact which suggests that it is true women can also have an important role in educating future generations

“The The role of a woman has always been that of a nursesince ancient times in fact the one who had to keep the fire burning was the woman, predisposed to feed the child but also to take care of all family members. This is a characteristic that has been passed down over the centuries – explains Professor Cena. – But be careful: this does not mean that women take care of themselves before others, on the contrary. Having to take care of everyone means that women end up putting their needs on the back burner and not taking care of themselves as they should.”

Prevention: the earlier you start, the better

«We must remember that it is never too late for prevention but the sooner we start, the better – concludes the expert. – A long and healthy life is built by taking care of yourself as soon as possibleif possible before the damage of age and the inevitable risk factors to which each of us can be exposed begins to occur.”