Food marketers not only have to battle against restrictions on health claims, but they may also be coming up against 'macho' attitudes when trying to reach the male consumer.
New statistical research carried out by a team from the University of Southampton in the UK suggests that the number of people dying as a result of diabetes may be directly influenced by 'male macho attitudes'.
Professors Robert Peveler and Colin Pritchard of the Mental Health research unit at the University's School of Medicine found that during the period studied (1974-1997) while the numbers of young adults dying from diabetes fell, there was still a disproportionately higher death rate among young men.
Their findings are based on detailed analysis of the most recent international mortality statistics conducted by the World Health Organisation. The researchers used these statistics to compare and contrast changes in the death rates of youth and young adults by gender - both within individual countries and between countries of the developed world.
The statistics show that in spite of an increase in youth and young adult diabetes, the death rate has fallen in most countries, apart from the United States; with the number of male deaths in England and Wales showing the second biggest reduction in the West, down 38 per cent for men and 25 per cent for females.
The findings are supported by a recent study in The Lancet suggesting that an increase in the prevalence of diabetes may be due to better detection and people surviving longer with the disease not an increase in new cases.
However, the overall level of male deaths is still an area of concern, says Professor Pritchard, with young male deaths from diabetes at nearly twice the rate of female deaths.
"With more than 200 males to 100 females dying annually, there is evidence that there are still unnecessary deaths from diabetes," he said.
He suggests that 'male macho attitudes' may play a key role. "Young men resent restrictions being placed on their lifestyle and are not good at considering medium term futures. They are more likely to be attracted to risk. Being diabetic or maintaining a healthy diet is about life boundaries and the desire to over-ride this can result from a 'male macho attitude' which means they are less likely to follow their treatment regime," said Pritchard.
While food makers have never been under so much pressure to market healthier foods and take on some responsibility for what is now considered an obesity epidemic, persuading the male consumer to buy healthier foods remains a challenge.