Women live longer on average than men, but as they age, they face more health-threatening disease challenges than men. A new study in the United States suggests that the reason may be that women need more carotenoids than men, but they are not getting enough. A Japanese study published last year found that carotenoids helped reduce the risk of death in both men and women.
Carotenoids are found in brightly colored vegetables and fruits. Numerous studies have supported carotenoids, lutein and zeaxanthin, specifically linked to eye and brain health.
Women generally live longer than men, but have more health problems in old age. Scientists have long speculated that this should be affected by multiple factors, including innate differences in male and female hormones and genes. New research from the University of Georgia, published in the Journal of Nutritional Neuroscience, points to diet as a possible reason.
As women age, many health problems, such as osteoporosis, dementia, cataracts, macular degeneration, etc., are often associated with insufficient intake of carotenoids, a phytonutrient in the diet.
Which foods contain carotenoids?
An easy way to tell which foods are rich in carotenoids is by looking at the color.
Most of the brightly colored vegetables and fruits have bright colors thanks to carotenoids as pigments. List the following vegetables and fruits, which are high in carotenoids:
● sweet potatoes
● Green peppers, red peppers, yellow peppers
Women need more carotenoids than men
Study co-author Billy Hammond is a professor of behavioral and brain sciences in the Department of Psychology at the University of Georgia. He said that women need more carotenoids, and if they are not enough, they will have a higher risk of disease. "Women's diets are not much different from men's, but biologically, women have a higher need for carotenoids."
Carotenoids are fat-bath vitamins, which means they are stored in fat tissue, Hammond explained. Women generally have higher body fat, which is related to a woman's ability to conceive and carry a growing fetus. As a result, more carotenoids will be diverted to other adipose tissues, and carotenoids may be deficient in places that originally need a lot of carotenoids, such as the central nervous system.
Women store important nutrients such as carotenoids in order to protect the fetus and its growth during pregnancy. The natural operation of the body will provide these nutrients to the fetus first, so the mother's own needs will still be lacking.
Hammond cites the example of macular degeneration, which is linked to a lack of carotenoids. When a woman's retina is not getting enough carotenoids, and she is pregnant, her body will still give priority to carotenoids to help the fetus develop. At this time, the mother's own eyes are more prone to macular development disease.
According to the authors of the University of Georgia study, the effects of carotenoids on vision and cognitive health are particularly pronounced. Lutein and zeaxanthin, in particular, have particularly important effects on specific cells in the eyes and brain.
Many studies have pointed out that specific eye and brain cells are very selective for lutein and zeaxanthin, two carotenoids that can strengthen the function of eye and brain-related tissues and prevent degeneration.
Japanese research finds that it is very effective in preventing cancer and protecting the heart
Another study on carotenoids, published last year, found that carotenoids can prolong life.
The study, published last June in the JAMA Network Open, was conducted in Yakumo, Hokkaido, Japan, and focused not on gender differences, but on carotenoids Association with the risk of death from diseases such as cancer and cardiovascular disease.
The subjects of the study were local residents over the age of 40 who had undergone health checks between 1990 and 1999, with a total of 3,116 participants. Women accounted for 60.4%, with an average age of 54.7 years. The study tracked carotenoid concentrations in the subjects' blood each year until December 2017. The longest and shortest tracking times were 25.3 and 15.5 years, respectively, with a median tracking time of 22.3 years.
The carotenoid concentrations measured in this study are the sum of various carotenoids such as lutein, zeaxanthin, lycopene, beta-carotene, and not a single nutrient.
During the study period, 762 subjects died, including 253 from cancer and 210 from cardiovascular disease. After analyzing the data, the study reported that a 25 percent increase in blood carotenoid concentrations was associated with a 15 percent lower risk of overall death, an 18 percent lower risk of cancer death, and a 14 percent lower risk of cardiovascular disease.
An easy and convenient way to get more carotenoids
Carotenoids are found in many foods and can be easily identified by looking at the color of the food.
Carotenoids are the nutrients that make food appear brightly colored like orange, yellow or red, says Dena Champion, a nutritionist at Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. Therefore, the vegetables and fruits mentioned above, such as tomatoes, corn, green peppers, watermelons, etc., are all rich in color.
Eat more dark green vegetables such as spinach and kale to get more lutein and zeaxanthin. This is less obvious, because chlorophyll is the protagonist that gives these vegetables their color.
Quan Pine said that phytochemicals are basically beneficial to human health.
"Phytochemicals may play a role in helping to prevent certain cancers and reduce inflammation. Some act as antioxidants and protect us from free radical damage." She emphasized that plants are nutritional powerhouses and are still relatively low in calories. "If we include a variety of plants in our diet, it can support various functions of the body in many ways."
Quan Pine also mentioned that lutein and zeaxanthin are two very special carotenoids, which are very important for the health of eyes and cognition.
She said that it is easy to keep enough carotenoids by supplementing your daily diet with more phytonutrients. As mentioned earlier, foods rich in carotenoids are easy to recognize and find, many fruits can be eaten raw, and vegetables that need to be cooked are not troublesome.
Quan Pine takes the simplest cooking in the western kitchen as an example: when you open a bottle of canned soup and pour it into a pot to heat, add some frozen broccoli, cook it completely, eat it together, you can get more phytonutrients and fiber. She stressed that the food doesn't need to be fresh, and that frozen can provide the same benefits.
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