Men and Women – Are Our Nutritional Requirements Different?
Author: Angelique Bone Date Posted:30 January 2019
It’s no secret that there are differences between men’s and women’s bodies, not just externally, but internally as well – from hormones to body composition. Does this mean that we also have different nutritional requirements? Well, for some nutrients our recommended daily intakes are exactly the same, according to the Australian Government Ministry of Health’s Nutrient Reference Values.¹ For other nutrients, requirements vary based on differences in body size rather than any gender differences,² but for others there is indeed a variation in daily requirement based on our gender.
Let’s have a look at some of these nutrients.
Men and women have different body compositions and this can affect how much protein we each require in a day. Women have an average body fat percentage of around 20 to 30%, while men only tend to carry about 12 to 20% body fat mass and more muscle mass (these are based on healthy weight).³ Because it takes more protein to maintain a higher percentage of muscle mass, men tend to have a daily requirement of about 0.84g of protein per kg body weight, compared to a woman’s 0.75g/kg body weight.¹
One of the biggest differences in nutritional requirements is for iron. Iron is a mineral that is involved in oxygen transport around the body and a large portion is stored in the blood.⁴ As you can imagine, women of menstrual age, who bleed every month, would lose some of their iron stores with each period. It is for this reason that women need about 80% more iron than men.⁵ So, while the recommended daily intake for men is about 8mg per day, women of reproductive age require about 18mg/day.¹
Strong Bones with Calcium
Calcium requirements are the same for men and women throughout most of adulthood. However, once women have gone through menopause, the declining oestrogen levels lead to a loss of bone density,⁵ contributing to a greater need for calcium. Not only this, but calcium absorption decreases with age as well.⁶ Most men have a recommended Calcium intake of 1000mg per day. This is the same for women until they reach Menopause at around 50 years of age. At this stage the requirement increases to 1300mg/day.¹
Selenium for Protection
Apart from its antioxidant activity and its role in thyroid hormone modulation, Selenium is also a co-factor in the production of testosterone and it is needed for sperm health.⁷ As such, men need slightly more Selenium per day than women. Their recommended daily intake is 70mcg/day to a woman’s 60mcg/day.
Zinc for Health
Of all the tissues in the body, the prostate contains the highest zinc concentration.⁴ It makes sense, then, that men would have a slightly higher requirement/daily intake for this nutrient than women. It also seems that men have a lower absorption rate of this nutrient⁸ accounting for a higher recommended daily intake of 14mg/day to the 8mg/day that is recommended for women.¹
While you may find that the recommended daily intakes for a good number of nutrients varies between men and women, many of these may be based on our differences in body composition and size. There are a few nutrients, however, which we require different amounts of, based on the function these nutrients have in the body. So the short answer to our earlier question is yes. Men and women do have slightly different nutritional requirements.
1. Ministry of Health, Australian Government National Health and Medical Research Council, 2017, “Nutrient Reference Values for Australia and New Zealand”, https://www.nrv.gov.au/nutrients.
2. Harvard Health Publishing, 2006, “Good Nutrition: Should guidelines differ for men and women?”, https://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletter_article/good-nutrition-should-guidelines-differ-for-men-and-women.
3. Lohman, 1981 in Stevens, J. et al. 2010, “Associations between gender, age and waist circumference”, European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol. 64, pp. 6-15.
4. Braun, L. & Cohen, M. 2015, Herbs and Natural Supplements Volume 2, Churchill Livingstone, Chatswood NSW, Australia.
5. Trickey, R. 2011, “Women, Hormones and The Menstrual Cycle”, Ruth Trickey Enterprises Pty Ltd, Fairfield Victoria, Australia.
6.Ebelling et al. 1994, Morris et al. 1991, Need et al. 1998, in Ministry of Health, Australian Government National Health and Medical Research Council, 2017, “Nutrient Reference Values for Australia and New Zealand”, https://www.nrv.gov.au/nutrients/calcium.
7.Rayman and Rayman, 2002, in Braun, L. & Cohen, M. 2015, “Herbs and Natural Supplements Volume 2”, Churchill Livingstone, Chatswood NSW, Australia.
8. Izincg 2004, in Ministry of Health, Australian Government National Health and Medical Research Council, 2017, “Nutrient Reference Values for Australia and New Zealand”, https://www.nrv.gov.au/nutrients/zinc.
|Written by Angelique Bone|
Angelique (BHSc Naturopathy) is a qualified naturopath with a passion for herbal medicine and helping other people feel the best that they can. She believes that balance and moderation is important in maintaining good health.
Angelique enjoys reading, spending time with her family and baking goodies with her two young boys.