Gender-specific roles and needs in food-health security Academic Article uri icon


  • People rely on foods to provide energy and nutrients to sustain life and to ensure health. In the entire chain from acquiring foods to ingesting them, women contribute in unique ways to the food system. Although foods or nutrients requirements for both sexes are biologically similar in many aspects, women go through more complex life-cycles than men and may experience greater risk of nutrient deprivation due to their role to bear and to rear off-spring. Therefore, women and their offspring are particularly vulnerable to food scarcity and to poor dietary quality. On the other hand, the female genome, partly through sex hormones delays the development of many chronic diseases which result from the modern affluent lifestyle. The inherent biological roles of men and women and their socially constructed roles may interact with one another, affecting the health security of each gender, their families, and the well-being of the societies in which they live. Historically and contemporarily, women in general are socially and politically more underprivileged than men. The inequality which women have faced has jeopardized not only their health and that of their female children, but the well-being of all. In developed countries and in more and more developing countries, equal opportunities for education are promoted. Recent research indicates that women have a greater tendency than men to engage in healthy behaviours when empowered with health knowledge. Risky health-related behaviours, including poor food choices, are more often practiced by men and warrant more public health attention.

publication date

  • September 1, 2009