A recent study from the University of Georgia underscores the potential benefits of a diet rich in pigmented carotenoids—found in brightly colored fruits and vegetables—for improving women’s health outcomes, especially in preventing visual and cognitive loss.
While women generally have a longer lifespan than men, they also suffer from higher rates of certain illnesses.
As cited by Billy R. Hammond, co-author of the study, two-thirds of the global cases of macular degeneration and dementia are women. The study suggests that many of these illnesses are preventable through lifestyle changes.
One factor influencing these health disparities between men and women is the difference in how they store vitamins and minerals.
Women, having a higher average body fat than men, store more dietary vitamins and minerals in their fat.
While this reservoir is beneficial during pregnancy, it leaves less for vital organs like the retina and brain, making women more prone to degenerative diseases.
Pigmented carotenoids act as antioxidants, with lutein and zeaxanthin being specifically beneficial for the eyes and brain.
Both genders consume similar amounts of these carotenoids, but women’s requirements are higher.
Current dietary recommendations don’t differentiate between men’s and women’s needs for these carotenoids, an oversight the study’s authors believe needs rectifying.
The study emphasizes the profound effect diet has on various aspects of human health and well-being, from mood to cognitive function.
Hammond also noted the emerging understanding of the gut microbiome’s role in overall health, highlighting the interconnected nature of diet, gut health, and brain function.
While supplements containing lutein and zeaxanthin can be beneficial, obtaining these carotenoids directly from food sources is deemed more effective.
Consuming foods like yams, kale, spinach, watermelon, bell peppers, tomatoes, oranges, and carrots can offer these health benefits.
The study reinforces the importance of a balanced diet, rich in pigmented carotenoids, especially for women.
By understanding gender-specific vulnerabilities and nutritional needs, individuals can make informed dietary choices to improve their long-term health and quality of life.
The study was published in Nutritional Neuroscience.