Despite all the hype regarding gender equality, men and women have obvious differences. According to a new study, men and premenopausal women store fat differently. As a result, men are at higher risk for fat-related illnesses than women. The study was published online in the journal Cell Reports by an international team of researchers.
The study authors note that over the past five decades, obesity has become a global epidemic. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that more than half a billion adults worldwide are obese. Obesity is related to chronic, low-grade inflammation in adipose tissues and in the central nervous system. Inflammation in the central nervous system, in turn, leads to insulin and leptin resistance and accelerates the onset of cardiovascular disease. However, the mechanisms underlying central nervous system inflammation and accompanying disorder remain unclear. Obesity affects both males and females; however, gender differences exist in regard to the development of metabolic complications associated with obesity. Premenopausal women are protected from the adverse effects of obesity; however, the prevalence of metabolic disorders increases significantly after the menopause.
For the study, the investigators fed male and female mice a diet high in carbohydrates, fat and sugar. Their diet was similar to eating a Big Mac and drinking a large soda every day. Almost half (42%) of the mice’s calories came from fat. The typical American consumes from 38% to 48% of his or her calories from fat. The research team waited until the mice gained the same amount of weight because males usually are larger than females. When that occurred, the male mice developed type 2 diabetes and had enlarged hearts, which is associated with cardiovascular disease; however, the females developed neither condition.
When researchers removed the ovaries of the female mice to simulate menopause, they found that the female mice’s fatty-acid tissue looked like the males’. This substantial compositional differences between the male and pre-menopausal female mice’s fatty acid tissue was the most significant finding of the study. The male brain tissue reflected the types of fats that were in the diet. Therefore, the study proved the adage, “You are what you eat.” A previous study in 2011 by the same researchers found that that female fat tissues are like spandex. They can store extra fat, while males’ fat tissue cannot.
Evolutionary science has revealed that women tend to store more fat in their thigh and hip areas to prepare their bodies for pregnancy, while men tend to deposit fat in their pancreas, heart and, as the study suggests, in their brain. The study authors note that if their findings are confirmed by clinical studies, they could impact how nutritionists offer dietary advice. The researchers plan to conduct clinical studies on male and female fatty acid tissues in cadavers, via brain biopsies, or by using imaging techniques.