According to recent study from the University of Georgia, a healthier diet rich in pigmented carotenoids like those found in yams, kale, spinach, watermelon, bell peppers, tomatoes, oranges, and carrots may help reduce the greater incidence of sickness among women.
These colourful produce items have a crucial role in minimising cognitive and visual decline. The study titled, ‘The influence of the macular carotenoids on women’s eye and brain health’, was published in Nutritional Neuroscience.
“The idea is that men get a lot of the diseases that tend to kill you, but women get those diseases less often or later so they perseverate but with illnesses that are debilitating,” said Billy R. Hammond, a professor in UGA’s Franklin College of Arts and Sciences department of psychology behavioral and brains sciences program and co-author of the study. For example, of all of the existing cases of macular degeneration and dementia in the world, two-thirds are women … these diseases that women suffer for years are the very ones most amenable to prevention through lifestyle.”
The study, which reviewed and analyzed data from previous studies, detailed several degenerative conditions, from autoimmune diseases to dementia that, even controlling for lifespan differences, women experience at much higher rates than men. “If you take all the autoimmune diseases collectively, women account for nearly 80 per cent. So, because of this vulnerability, linked directly to biology, women need extra preventive care,” Hammond said.
The way women retain vitamins and minerals in their bodies is one of the factors contributing to this sensitivity. Women often have more body fat than males, according to Hammond. Many dietary vitamins and minerals are significantly absorbed by body fat, which provides pregnant women with a helpful reserve. But because there is less available for the retina and the brain, women are more likely to experience degenerative issues.
Pigmented carotenoids in the human diet serve as antioxidants. Lutein and zeaxanthin, two distinct carotenoids present in certain tissues of the eye and brain, have been demonstrated to directly ameliorate central nervous system degeneration.
“Men and women eat about the same amount of these carotenoids, but the requirements for women are much higher,” said Hammond.
“The recommendations should be different, but there are, generally, not any recommendations for men or women for dietary components that are not directly linked to deficiency disease (like vitamin C and scurvy),” Hammond said. “Part of the idea for the article is that recommendations need to be changed so that women are aware that they have these vulnerabilities that they have to proactively address, so they don’t have these problems later in life.”
Supplements containing carotenoids are also available, and the National Institutes of Health’s National Eye Institute programme has concentrated resources on certain carotenoids. Additionally, Hammond said that ingesting lutein and zeaxanthin through food is a far superior method than using pills to increase consumption.
“Components of diet influence the brain, from things like personality to even our concept of self. I don’t think people quite realize what a profound effect diet has on basically who they are, their mood, even their propensity to anger,” Hammond said. “And now of course this is extended to the microbiome and the bacteria that make up your gut–all of these components work together to create the building blocks that compose our brain and the neurotransmitters that mediate its use.”