Eating more fruits and vegetables may help women live longer, study finds

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A healthier diet can reduce the risk of illness

A new study conducted by researchers from the University of Georgia explored how women’sfood choices may affect how long they live. 

Experts explained that while women tend to live longer than men on average, they also are more prone to certain illnesses. However, eating more fruits and vegetables that are high in carotenoids may lower their risk of getting sick and promote longer life. 

“The idea is that men get a lot of the diseases that tend to kill you, but women get those diseases less often or later so they perseverate but with illnesses that are debilitating,” said researcher Billy R. Hammond. “For example, of all of the existing cases of macular degeneration and dementia in the world, two-thirds are women…these diseases that women suffer for years are the very ones most amenable to prevention through lifestyle.” 

Improving women’s longevity

For the study, the researchers analyzed previous studies that have looked at the rates of men and women contracting several kinds of illnesses, including cognitive issues and autoimmune conditions. The data also included information on mortality rates and longevity between the genders. 

The researchers learned that women tend to be more susceptible to illness than men -- possibly because their bodies store vitamins and minerals in a way that’s beneficial for pregnancy but that also leaves them vulnerable to other conditions. For example, the team noted that women’s eyes and brains tend to lack the vitamins and minerals necessary to prevent degenerative conditions. 

However, eating more vegetables that are high in carotenoids – like spinach, bell peppers, carrots, yams, watermelon, oranges, or kale – may help prevent certain illnesses. These vegetables contain antioxidants that directly target the nervous system. 

“Men and women eat about the same amount of these carotenoids, but the requirements for women are much higher,” said Hammond. “The recommendations should be different, but there are, generally, not any recommendations for men or women for dietary components that are not directly linked to deficiency disease (like vitamin C and scurvy). 

“Part of the idea for the article is that recommendations need to be changed so that women are aware that they have these vulnerabilities that they have to proactively address, so they don’t have these problems later in life.” 

While consumers are able to get these benefits from certain dietary supplements, the researchers recommend that women instead opt for incorporating more fruits and vegetables into their diets. 

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