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E. Coli Outbreak Affects More Women Than Men, Study Says

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Government investigators have linked the new outbreak of E. coli in 11 states to romaine lettuce grown in Yuma, Arizona. What’s interesting is that 70% of those affected by the bacteria that came from leafy greens are female. Last year, 67% of E. coli victims were female as well, and the year before that? A whopping 73%, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Medical experts have been wondering why a large percentage of E. coli victims are female. Dr. Bruce Lee, an associate professor of international health at Johns Hopkins University says that there are three potential factors for this happening: diet, anatomy, and symptom relay, USA Today reports.

In general, women’s diets tend to include more greens.

In 2012, research published in the medical journal Clinical Infectious Diseases where approximately 15,000 men and women were studied indicated that men ate a greater amount of meat and poultry than women, who ate fruits and vegetables in higher proportions.

It may not be conclusive evidence but food preference seems to play a huge role in a person’s chances of being a victim of E. coli. This may explain why the E. coli outbreak in 2016 that came from beef products affected more men than women. However, in the 2011 E. coli outbreak involving cucumbers, lettuce, and tomatoes, more women fell ill.

Aside from diet, women may react more to E. coli because of their gastrointestinal tracts are structured differently, although Dr. Lee mentioned that there’s not really enough proof to back this claim. Most differences in sexes and races, he said, are often social and behavioral, not biological.

Additionally, Dr. Lee stated that men and women report symptoms differently, men being less likely to seek medical help while women openly relay information to their doctor. This may also be a reason for the high numbers.

The E. coli outbreak related to the Arizona lettuce affected at least 53 people, 31 of whom were hospitalized. However, Dr. Lee, also an executive director of Johns Hopkins Global Obesity Prevention Center, stresses that this is not an excuse to refrain from eating vegetables.

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