Let’s hear it for the boys (and girls)

He talks to solve a problem. She talks to express the way she feels about the problem. He doesn’t care for shopping. She lives and dies for sales. He can only focus on one thing at a time. She’s the multi-tasking master. If you Google ‘what are the differences between men and women’, these are the sorts of statements you’ll find, accompanied by some really 90s looking cartoons.

And speaking of the 90s, who could ever forget the book, Men are from Mars, Women Are from Venus? It was based on the idea that relationship problems are a result of fundamental psychological differences between the sexes. It sold more than 50 million copies and spent 121 weeks (!!) on the bestseller list.

It seems that, as a society, we’re obsessed with the differences between men and women – but is there any science to back the statements made in this article so far? We don’t know. What we do know is that hormonally speaking, men and women are different. Men = more testosterone. Women = more oestrogen and progesterone. And they’re biologically different. Genitals. Boobs. Enough said. Also, most women can’t grow a beard (although they’re pretty good at single chin hairs – go girls!).

Boobs, beards and chin hairs to one side, one survey of 14,000 US citizens even found that men and women eat differently. Men were more likely to report eating meat and poultry items like duck veal and ham, while women were more likely to report eating fruit and veg like carrot, tomatoes, blueberries, apples, and raspberries.

 Are we really so different that we each require our own planet? Image via: https://bit.ly/2xwUKOw

Are we really so different that we each require our own planet? Image via: https://bit.ly/2xwUKOw

HeadUp weighs in.

We recently ran a little study of our own – but we also looked at when and how often men and women eat. And yeah, the guys and gals do tend to do things a little differently. Here are some interesting stats our data scientists were able to mine from our Insiders program:

  • Women were 15% more likely than men to get in six servings of fruit and veg per day
  • Women were 2 x more likely than men to have an evening snack in addition to dinner
  • Women were 3.5 x more likely than men to have brunch
  • Women were 39% less likely than men to have breakfast
  • Women were 83% less likely than men to have lunch

When you look at these stats alone, they’re interesting – and they certainly get you thinking: WHY. Why were women less likely than men to eat lunch and breakfast? But what we were really interested in was: how often, when, and what, do women and men with healthy waistlines eat? So, we asked our users to provide their waist circumferences and compared those back to their eating habits.

We focused on waistline because its measurement indicates how much fat a person is carrying around their belly. Belly fat is more likely to be comprised of visceral fat: which is a nasty bugger that coats your internal organs, putting a strain on important bodily functions. For women, an optimal waist circumference is 80cm or less. For men it is 94cm or less. Anyone with a measurement above these numbers is increasing their chances of developing Type II diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Told you – nasty bugger!

 Total waist of time. Image by Cyanide and Happiness, via: https://bit.ly/2LIsnQm

Total waist of time. Image by Cyanide and Happiness, via: https://bit.ly/2LIsnQm

What did we find?

Again - there were some differences between the sexes. For example, men with healthy waists were more likely to lay off the soft drink and eat breakfast. Women with healthy waists were more likely to be drinking several glasses of water. But what we found really interesting was that, actually, there were more similarities between the sexes. People with healthy waists – regardless of gender were more likely to be:

  • Hitting their daily fruit and veg quota
  • Snacking in the afternoon
  • Not having an evening snack

On the other hand, people with unhealthy waists were more likely to be skipping their afternoon snack and not be hitting their fruit and veg quota. And again – regardless of gender.

Why is this interesting?

Because we’re nerds. OK. That’s why. No, in all seriousness, as a society we’re primed to look for the differences between men and women to explain certain behaviours, communication styles, or eating styles. But sometimes it’s what we have in common that becomes the most useful information.

For example, we know that eating fruit and veg is important. Not only does the colourful stuff give your body precious nutrients, it takes up more room in your stomach, meaning you’re able to fill up for less calories. But it seems clear from our data that no matter if you’re a man or a woman – getting in a good amount of fruit and veg is more achievable if you’re snacking in the afternoon. It also seems that if you DO get your afternoon snack in, you’re less likely to snack in the evening, which appears to be linked to everything from weird dreams to heart disease.

 Fruit and veg: they fill you up for less! Image via: https://bit.ly/2IJo9Jy

Fruit and veg: they fill you up for less! Image via: https://bit.ly/2IJo9Jy

Even Harvard agrees with us. 

According to Harvard researchers, men and women are 98.5% identical in their DNA, meaning their nutritional needs are more similar than different. Also, for both sexes, weight loss can only be achieved when more calories are burned than taken in.

Numbers don’t lie. Our data doesn’t lie. Harvard sure as hell doesn’t lie. And our data and the scientists at Harvard are telling us that when it comes to maintaining a healthy waistline, men and women really aren’t that different from one another after all. So, if you’re a woman trying to get into shape, you might be inclined to copy what your friends from Venus are doing. But inspiration can be found in multiple places, so don’t forget to go to Mars from time to time.

 Of course we are biologically different, but sometimes it's the similarities that are more 'useful'. Image via: https://bit.ly/2J3MIhk

Of course we are biologically different, but sometimes it's the similarities that are more 'useful'. Image via: https://bit.ly/2J3MIhk

When do gender differences matter? Here are some fast facts.

Let’s make this clear: the number of calories you need per day depends on your body size and exercise level, not so much your gender. But there are certain things that are particularly important for men over women, and vice versa:

  • Men need more fibre than women (not sure what the boys are getting up to)
  • Men need to be wary of a certain type of fat – the omega 3 alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which is found in canola and flaxseed oils. It’s still an open question, but it seems that ALA may increase the risk of prostate cancer. Women are safe to consume as much ALA as they like. Pass the canola.
  • Ladies need to be more careful around alcohol: it raises the risk of breast cancer. Men should also be wary of alcohol, but their boobs are probably going to be OK.  
  • Calcium is good for women in any amount and should be consumed to counteract osteoporosis. Men don’t need to worry about osteoporosis as much, so don’t need as much calcium. In fact, in large amounts it may increase their risk of prostate cancer.
  • Women need more iron because they lose it during their menstrual cycle each month. Men should avoid overdoing the iron because they can develop hemochromatosis.

Take-home message.

At the end of the day the differences in what men and women should be eating come down to the ‘fine print’ of nutrition. And while we should certainly take the fine print under consideration, we mustn’t forget to look at our overall dietary similarities – because as our mini study has shown, we can learn so much from those too.

 

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*Please note: header image via Vecteezy: https://bit.ly/2JemFr9