Who is more unhealthy, Men or Women?

by Paleo Rob on 20/10/2010

As you may know by now, I love technology. Also, being of a science background, I love data. When I can use technology to show data, I get ridiculously (pathetically?) excited. Today I will come back to our friend WolframAlpha, the incredibly powerful ‘search engine’ that goes through hundreds of databases of information and gives you the information in nice pretty pictures and graphs. It also allows you to do some pretty cool comparisons and analysis on the fly.

So after playing around some, I decided, hell, let’s measure how many people have ‘unhealthy’ biological markers, in other words how sick are we really? (Well actually its how sick the US is, but I assume we can translate it to most western countries). To do this I will go through various test data and outline how much of the population has markers outside of the normal range. To make it fun, I have made it a competition amongst men and women, to determine once and for all, who has the prestigious honour of being the unhealthiest sex. 

Just some notes:

  • Clicking on the image will bring you to the WolframAlpha page of the search so you can mess around yourself. (Try putting your own values in and see how you go compared to your brethren!)
  • All the data seems to have come from  US National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2006
  • I realise that some markers have extremes in both directions, i.e too much Iron or not enough iron. I will just generally pick one that is more common (i.e not enough iron). There is no reason for this other than me being lazy.
  • I am not a doctor, statistician, health professional, pornstar, reverend or anything else. I am just an engineer who is interested in health, this information is for INFORMATION purposes only and doesn’t prove/show/predict anything.

Round 1 – Total Cholesterol

I know, I know, total cholesterol generally means absolute crap, but I thought I may as well start with an easy one.
According to MedlinePlus a Total Serum Cholesterol count of 200mg/dL is ‘desirable’, so how do we go?


It is a close matchup this one, but with 39.8% of the female population having Total Serum Cholesterol greater than 200 and 35.6% of males, it seems the females have one!

Winner: Females

Round 2 – Total Serum Triglycerides

Next we have serum triglycerides. If you are eating a paleo diet, you should be able to get your triglyceride levels down under 100mg/dL quite easily. However MedlinePlus states that for triglycerides less than 150mg/dL is considered desirable, so we will go with them.


This one is a little more clear cut. With 23.6% of females having more than 150mg/dL and 32% of males having more than 150mg/dL the clear winner here is the men. It’s also interesting to note that the male spread is a lot higher than the female, with the 95% reference range (the range in which 95% of the data falls) for men being a whopping 480mg/dL compared to the female 310mg/dL. I was considering on giving the males an extra point for that but decided against lest I be considered sexist!

Winner: Males

Round 3 – Total Serum HDL Cholesterol

Now we have the ‘good’ cholesterol, or HDL cholesterol. This cholesterol we want more of, and MedlinePlus states that serum levels of 60mg/dL of HDL Cholesterol are desirable.


Another clear victory, the males are on a role now. The females with only 60.2% of the population having less than the desired amount are dwarfed by the males 81.9%. I am sorry ladies, but the men win this one.

Winner: Males

Round 4 – Total Serum LDL Cholesterol

Again, I realise this may be a silly competition, but for the sake of completion I will include it. I assume that this would be the friedewald LDL, I am sure if someone actually does the research on the study they could find out, but I really don’t have that much initiative. So let’s just call it ‘bad’ cholesterol, and use MedlinePlus’s range of less than 100mg/dL being desirable.


Wow, super close here. Looking at the data, 57.8% of females are above the desired amount of 100mg/dL and 59.8% of males, the numbers are neck and neck. I think we may have to call this a tie.

Winner:Males & Females (Tie)

Round 5 – Vitamin D

The super ‘vitamin’. Now MedlinePlus states that optimal Vitamin D levels are above 30 and below 70. However from other sources, values between 60-70ng/dL seem to be the target values. For the sake of consistency I will use MedLinePlus’s value of 30, but you will see why in a second.


Another super close one here. But the men just inch over the line. With 83.6% of females below the desired value and 86.1% of males, it is a close race. However, as mentioned earlier the optimal values should really be between 60-70ng/dL and the fact that neither the men or female have any results up that high, I think we will have to call this another tie.

Winner:Males & Females (Tie)

Round 6 – Blood Pressure

We will fight this war in two battles. The battle of Systolic and the battle of Diastolic. MedLineplus says that a high systolic pressure reading is anything over 140mmHg whilst for diastolic its anything over 90mgHg. Let’s see how the different sexes came out.





Well the women won the Systolic battle with 13% vs 11% being over 140mmHg, but moving to the Diastolic battle, the men inched out the woman with 5% to 2.8%. I think I have to give this one to the females, only because both sexes had fairly low diastolic values of 90.

Winner: Females

Round 7 – Iron

I was reluctant to put iron in as it would be a shoe-in for the women, but I did anyway. MedlinePlus states that serum iron values lower than 60mcg/dL are bad, so lets see how the sexes battled it out.


Just as I guessed, the women beat the men here by nearly exactly double, with 15.7% of men not having enough iron compared to a whopping 31.5% of women. Sorry guys, but the ladies have you here.

Winner: Females

Final Round – The BMI

Yeah I know, what a crock. BMI is a horrible way to measure health, I get that. But for the sake of completion I thought I would include it. Now a BMI of 25 or more is considered overweight so I will use this as a marker.


So for the final round we have the men beating the women, with 56.4% of the men considered overweight compared to only 50.3% of women.

Winner: Males

The Final Score

So here we are. After 8 completely random tests, we come to the results. As the judges are tallying the results I would just like to say, that this test really doesn’t prove anything except for the fact is that in general, the American (western?) population is very unhealthy and sick. No-body actually wins. We all lose. I want people to realise that the people studied here are not some lab rats locked away in some cage, they are real people , they are your family, your friends, your co-workers, or quite possible you. No matte the results, the purpose of this blog post was to show that if we really want to improve the world, our own health is a great starting point…

…and the winner is… Nobody! It’s a tie! 5 to 5

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Hector Wilberforce August 3, 2012 at 12:33 am

Well my serum cholesterol was less than 4 mmol/l (dunno what that is in mg/dl) and this is very low, also trigs were below the reference range in this study, which is excellent, and my blood pressure waaaaaay below this average. I mean waaaaaaaaaaaay below. And I eat tons of red meat.


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