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    We Are What We Eat: Avoiding the Spare Tire Syndrome is the Secret to Longevity for Men

    By Meg Adelman, RN, BSN, MPH, Navitas Organics Wellness Director | June 20, 2018
    We-Are-What-We-Eat-MegA-WEBImagine a tumbleweed blowing across the desert, gaining both speed and size in rapid succession. Ever wonder what causes this? Well, it’s the thorny Russian Thistle, an invasive species brought here on contaminated flax seeds by Russian immigrants in the 1800s. Since then, the weed has overpopulated the West, posing both an agricultural nuisance as well as a dangerous fire hazard, especially in our current drought conditions. Metaphorically speaking, human health behaves like a tumbleweed – once one disease process begins, it triggers another, each running interference against the body’s goal for homeostasis. As the tumbleweed blows, the entanglement gets larger, threatening wildlife, barricading people inside homes and trapping them on country roads. Much like the top health issues common among men, the tumbleweed is the accidental consequence of neglect and overabundance. 

    Obesity Creates a Chain Reaction
    The good news is that the majority of health risks for men are preventable, especially in absence of the initial catalyst (or Russian thistle) – abdominal or central obesity. Unlike women who tend to gain weight all over the body, weight gain in men is often localized to the abdomen. Studies on central obesity demonstrate that this condition can be particularly problematic because it represents a relative measure of visceral fat surrounding internal organs, causing blockages, impeding proper circulation, and preventing the distribution of oxygenated blood to the tissues and major organs. Thus, the more weight there is, the greater the potential for problems, which is why avoiding weight gain should be a top priority for all men. Central obesity is also known to elicit lipotoxicity, the result of fat cells depositing triglycerides and free fatty acids into the portal vein, which travel directly into the liver. The liver’s primary function is to break down nutrients from our food and remove toxins for excretion, but it also preferentially stores fat in the absence of metabolic need. As excess fat accumulates, widespread organ dysfunction will develop over time. It is at this point, the tumbleweed begins its tumultuous journey.

    The American Heart Association (AHA) reports that twice as many men as women, or 1 in 3 men are currently living with some form of cardiovascular disease (CVD). Heart disease is also the most common cause of premature death among men, half of which may never exhibit any symptoms before the occurrence of a major coronary event. CVD encompasses everything from high blood pressure to valve dysfunction, to weakening of the heart muscle or pump itself as a result of sustained, reduced oxygenation to heart tissue. Smoking compounds this issue for men, and despite significant public health interventions in the last twenty years, the World Health Organization (WHO) reports that 40% of men as compared with 9% of women are still smoking globally. Next to unintentional or accidental injuries resulting from men’s tendency towards riskier or more adventurous behavior, the most common health problems in men are all related to the problem of central obesity, including:
    • Stroke
    • Cancer
    • Alcoholism
    • Suicide and Depression
    • Type II Diabetes
    • Sexual Dysfunction
    • Male Menopause (Low Testosterone)
    • Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder (COPD)

    Small Changes, Big Gains
    As expected, calorie restriction and a healthy diet is the gold standard to avoiding weight gain and the inevitable disease progression that comes along with it. Although organ damage can take years to develop, men who avoid the consequences of insidious weight gain over time will avoid many, if not all of these disorders, as well as enjoy improved mental health and stress management as they age. To illustrate this point further, a recent study demonstrates that swapping bad habits for good ones will not only increase life expectancy, but improve the quality of years lived, which is ultimately what matters most. Furthermore, habits like limiting animal proteins, eliminating processed and fast foods, and increasing plant-based diet choices are all impactful ways to reduce disease risk.

    Quality is Better Than Quantity
    For perpetually busy men looking for a quick and easy way to kickstart healthy eating habits, consider nutrient-dense smoothies in your daily routine. Start with a plant-based protein base like Vanilla & Greens Essential Blend added to water, milk or milk alternative. Add Daily Superfood Focus Boost, which is ideally suited to support men’s health with the inclusion of ingredients like Maca and Ashwaganda – hormonal adaptogens that are known to modulate stress, improve glucose and testosterone regulation, lower triglycerides and inflammation in the body. This mindfully curated nutrient boost also has caffeine in the form of Matcha and Yerba Mate, offering enhanced brain function, attention and energy throughout the day. Lastly, men should consider adding Hemp Seeds to any and all meals including smoothies, salads or yogurt. Hemp Seeds offer a complete plant-based protein substitute and a rich source of minerals including potassium, magnesium, calcium, sodium, iron and zinc – all integral players in cardiovascular health.

    Overall, prevention is paramount to avoid the initial Russian Thistle from starting a chain reaction that becomes far more complicated to eradicate as it grows. This is also why it is so baffling that so few of our healthcare dollars are directed towards prevention efforts and the prescriptive power of healthy lifestyle behaviors. Among them, diet is a critical component because as the saying goes, what we eat today will either feed disease or fight it. This is particularly true as it relates to the biggest threat to men’s health overall – cardiovascular disease. A sensible, whole foods diet provides the right combination of nutrients and antioxidants needed to combat oxidative stress, control inflammation and most importantly, ensure proper weight management throughout the lifespan. By eliminating or avoiding the “spare tire,” men are assured to get the most out of life and feel their best throughout the aging process.