To Your Health
October, 2010 (Vol. 04, Issue 10)
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Men's Health: Nutritional Considerations

By Dr. David Seaman

Several health issues predominate in men as they age including the metabolic syndrome, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, depression, erectile dysfunction, prostate hypertrophy (enlargement) and cancer, and loss of muscle mass and vitality. In many cases, medications are prescribed for these conditions: for example, metformin for metabolic syndrome, diuretics and ACE inhibitors for hypertension, and statins for elevated cholesterol. It is important to understand that these conditions often cluster in patients; in other words, many patients suffer from all of these conditions at once, leading to multiple health issues (and multiple medications). Also notable is that many of these patients are only in their 40s.

Most 40-year-old men who manifest these conditions are substantially different physical specimens compared to when they were in high school or college. A lean 6 footer weighing 170 pounds at age 20 will often weigh 220 pounds or more by age 40. The majority of that additional weight is in the form of fat, and its deposition often developed as a consequence of two simple things: overeating and a lack of exercise.

man preparing food in kitchen - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register Mark The additional fat mass that men collect as they age should be viewed as a "mass of inflammation." Interestingly, white blood cells collect in excess fat tissue and begin to release inflammatory chemicals into circulation. Fat cells also release various inflammatory chemicals. The outcome is that the man becomes generally inflamed, which can be quantified by measuring the C-reactive protein level with a simple blood test. As mentioned, multiple metabolic changes take place due to the inflammatory state, including atherosclerosis, depression, hypertension, erectile dysfunction, prostate hypertrophy, and reduced vitality.

While medications are sometimes beneficial in addressing the primary symptoms of these conditions, in general they cannot correct the problem, because the problem is caused by overeating and a lack of exercise. The good news is that the correction simply requires doing what we already know is good for us. That is, we need to exercise more and eat better, and research has demonstrated that the combination of exercising and eating nutrient-rich foods that are low in calories can lead to rapid fat loss and a reduction of chronic inflammation.

While this approach is obviously simple in application, there is inherent difficulty for many when trying to change dietary behaviors, especially if they have persisted for years. Sticking to eating healthy food is a challenge; however, consider the pro-inflammatory consequences that make a nightmare of the middle-age years, and one might well be motivated to practice a little prevention and avoid the dire health consequences later.

The best foods to focus on when pursuing an anti-inflammatory diet are fish, lean animal proteins, vegetables, fruits, sweet potatoes, and nuts. Certain supplements are also beneficial for reducing chronic inflammation, especially magnesium, omega-3 fish oil, and vitamin D.

The typical recommended level of supplemental magnesium is 400 mg per day. Fish oil is more complicated because we want to get 1,000-3,000 mg of EPA/DHA per day. EPA/DHA are the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil. In general, each fish oil capsule contains 1,000 more milligrams of oil; however, you must make sure the supplement includes 1,000 mg of the combination of EPA/DHA.