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November Is Men’s Health Awareness Month

It’s hard to say if it’s more cliché, unlikely, or ironic but the world’s most well-known men’s mental health initiative started in a bar.
 
More specifically, the humble beginnings of Movember occurred in Fitzroy, Australia as friends Travis Garone and Luke Slattery enjoyed a pint at the Gypsy Bar.  While there, they decided growing moustaches would serve the dually important purpose of bringing back a forgotten fashion trend and drawing attention to, and raising money in support of, men’s health and prostate cancer research.
 
Of course, while its been years since the once landmark Gypsy Bar pulled its last pint, what started in 2003 with “30 Mo Bros” has usurped Foster’s, Crocodile Dundee, and even Natalie Imbruglia to become Australia’s best export.
 
Now a juggernaut of both fundraising and awareness, Movember recently acted as the mental health and fitness sponsorof the Rugby League World Cup and, even more notably, two drugs supported by Movember funded research were FDA approved to treat advanced prostate cancer; Olaparib, hailed as the world’s first precision medicine for prostate cancer, and Rucaparib, targeted for men with advanced BRCA-linked prostate cancer. 
 
Not since the Rubix Cube has such a simple idea become so culturally enduring.
 
So, with Halloween behind us, let’s look at the initiatives that inspired all those moustache-based costumes.

 

Mental Health and Suicide Prevention

 
It’s long been understood men are much less likely to seek help for mental health challenges, but recent research has looked at specific, successful strategies aimed at reversing this trend.
 
Specifically, one recent study found interventions that appear to improve male help-seeking incorporate role models, psychoeducational materials, symptom recognition and management skills, active problem-solving tasks, signposting materials, and content that builds on positive masculine traits.[i]
 
As well, parallel to the Movember movement, and alongside more recent initiatives like Bell Let’s Talk, an increasing number of prominent male athletes are working to reduce the stigma around depression and mental health in both professional sports and society in general.
 
Finally, as a targeted initiative, Movember’s Breaking The Ice program is designed to teach young hockey players the skills needed to discuss, understand, and proactively seek support for mental health challenges.
 
As more organizations work to normalize the conversations around mental health and suicide awareness, the hope is our broader society will continue to embrace these conversations as ones worth having.
 

Prostate and Testicular Cancer

 
Worldwide, bowel screening targets set by government health agencies and medical professionals typically sit at 60%; however, actual screening rates in Canada mirror pre-pandemic data from the U.S. and often fall below even these modest targets.
 
Thus, even as people move into age brackets where the risk of these types of cancer increases, there is still a reluctance among many to participate in bowel screening, typically a colonoscopy. This is why, for over a decade, “Don’t Die Of Embarrassment” has become an oft repeated plea for all genders to take their bowel health more seriously.

For their part, Movember goes beyond prevention to provide relevant useful resources for those diagnosed with prostate cancer via True North, a global program created to help improve outcomes and quality of life for men diagnosed with prostate cancer.

As the most common cancer among young men, Testicular Cancer comes with its own set of taboos but also a refreshingly high survival rate of greater than 95%. Still, this doesn’t make it any easier when confronted with a diagnosis.

This is why Movember also donates significant resources worldwide to testicular cancer specific research, one of which was undertaken to better understand the genetic factors that could increase risk of a diagnosis.

Helping You, Help You

 
It would be nice, but very few us have a Jerry Maguire looking out for us, so it’s important to understand how you can help yourself.
 
So, as the mental health benefits of exercise are becoming better understood, so too are the organic, functional supplements that enhance performance.
 
More specifically, experimental evidence supports the Cordyceps mushroom as having a notable role in effectively reducing fatigue.[ii] As well, a separate 6-week study found the energizing compounds of Cordyceps significantly increased anaerobic thresholds for participants relative to those given a placebo.[iii]
Cordyceps have also been shown to have a positive effect on the production of testosterone. Often associated exclusively with being an important sex hormone, the benefits of testosterone are actually as wide ranging as its importance, impacting bone mass, fat distribution, muscle mass and strength, as well as the production of red blood cells and sperm.[iv]
 

Additionally, Cordyceps have been shown to improve testosterone production by regulating steroidogenesis, the process by which hormones like testosterone are produced; more specifically, in non-human studies, the bioactive compounds within Cordyceps have been found to activate the PKA pathways associated with steroidogenesis.[v]

Conversely, the possible consequences of low testosterone range from the obvious – a lowered sex drive and erectile dysfunction - to the less apparent.  For example, experimental evidence has linked a testosterone deficiency to both an increase in visceral adipose tissue (VAT) - which you may recognize as the “beer belly” – and the onset of non-alcohol fatty liver disease.[vi]

Ultimately, whether you’re in the boardroom, the bedroom, or the weight room, Cordyceps encourages the things you want and helps you avoid those things you don’t, making it an essential component of your whole body wellness routine.

 
 -- Ed Note: This post was written by Jared Stevens

 

 [i] Sagar-Ouriaghli, I., Godfrey, E., Bridge, L., Meade, L., & Brown, J. (2019). Improving Mental Health Service Utilization Among Men: A Systematic Review and Synthesis of Behavior Change Techniques Within Interventions Targeting Help-Seeking. American journal of men's health13(3), 1557988319857009. https://doi.org/10.1177/1557988319857009.
 
[ii] Song, Jingjing et al. “Studies on the Antifatigue Activities of Cordyceps Militaris Fruit Body Extract in Mouse Model.” Evidence-based complementary and alternative medicine 2015 (2015): 174616–174616. https://www.hindawi.com/journals/ecam/2015/174616/
 
[iii] Yi, X., Xi-zhen, H. & Jia-shi, Z. Randomized double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial and assessment of fermentation product of Cordyceps sinensis (Cs-4) in enhancing aerobic capacity and respiratory function of the healthy elderly volunteers. Chin. J. Integr. Med. 10, 187–192 (2004). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF02836405.


[iv]Wein, H. (2016, April 25). Understanding how testosterone affects men. National Institutes of Health. Retrieved October 26, 2022, from https://www.nih.gov/news-events/nih-research-matters/understanding-how-testosterone-affects-men#:~:text=Testosterone%20is%20a%20sex%20hormone,red%20blood%20cells%20and%20sperm.


[v] Chen, Y.-C., Chen, Y.-H., Pan, B.-S., Chang, M.-M., & Huang, B.-M. (2017). Functional study of Cordyceps sinensis and Cordycepin in male reproduction: A Review. Journal of Food and Drug Analysis, 25(1), 197–205. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jfda.2016.10.020


[vi] Mody A, White D, Kanwal F, Garcia JM. Relevance of low testosterone to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Cardiovasc Endocrinol. 2015 Sep 1;4(3):83-89. doi: 10.1097/XCE.0000000000000057. PMID: 26405614; PMCID: PMC4577238.