We continue to lose when it comes to men versus food

As we run up to Christmas comes news from across the Irish Sea which goes to reinforce what I think many of us already know.

This is not a time for stereotypical jokes about the Irish but a very comprehensive and serious report of men’s health from the Irish public health body safefood.
The body undertook research on men’s attitude to food and concluded that, in Ireland at least, that attitude puts us men at a serious disadvantage our female counterparts.

Given Christmas Day it is estimated that the average British adult will put away over 6,000 calories it makes interest reading for all.

The report highlights that men are generally less engaged with food both in terms of food hygiene and healthy eating. It also finds men have less healthy diets, eat more fat and salt, less fruit and vegetables, and tend to see food as fuel.

Men also show greater preference for larger portions of food, are less likely to be aware of healthy eating guidelines and are less likely to regard healthy eating as an important factor influencing their long-term health. And although more men than women are overweight or obese in Ireland, they are less likely to attempt to lose weight or to monitor their diet. At present, 70% of Irish men are overweight or obese, compared with 50% of women.

Dr Cliodhna Foley-Nolan, Director, Human Health and Nutrition, safefood said “Despite increases in life expectancy in both genders over the past number of decades, men are at higher risk from major chronic diseases such as heart disease and many cancers, mainly due to modifiable behavioural factors such as poor diet, high consumption of alcohol and smoking. Our food environment and societal attitudes around masculinity play a role in influencing men’s food behaviour.

When it comes to food skills such as planning, purchasing, shopping, cooking and cleaning, women are more likely to be skilled in this area and still do most of this work. While there is an abundance of data on men and women’s food intake and dietary patterns, few studies have exclusively examined men’s attitudes and behaviours in relation to food and health. This report identifies how men view themselves and their relationship with food and is of importance for men’s health given their levels of overweight and obesity.”

While the report does not look at the issue of exercise, the benefits of any exercise regime are far more apparent if they go hand in hand with a healthy diet.

The report also found that men are far more likely to be the occasional cook leaving it to a special occasion rather than a daily trip to the kitchen to rustle up a meal.

It seems it is all down to the “hunter gatherer” instinct in the male and that deep down we see the cooking of what we gather best left to the female. Obviously with most females tasked with the weekly shopping the hunting and gathering role is also becoming ever more redundant.

In the UK interestingly the most high profile chefs and television cooks remain male and while it may well attract men into a career in food and cookery it does not look likely have them glued to the food and drink channel.

Indeed the most popular food show amongst men in recent years has been “Man v Food” where host Adam Richman travelled across America to sample some iconic regional dishes and in each episode ended by taking on some daunting food challenges, such as attacking a 13-pound pizza in Atlanta, tucking into the Sasquatch Burger in Memphis, and the aptly named Atomic Hot Wings platter in Pittsburgh.

The issue is it seems is that until more men understand that while food is fuel we need to increase the quality not quantity of the fuel we consume then our health will continue to suffer.