Sex-based fat distribution pattern in humans

Posted on June 2nd, 2010 by Gina

A study regarded as “shocking,” published in the International Journal of Obesity, confirmed what every woman already knows – fat cells land in different places based on gender.  I have rarely seen a man with a balloon butt, thunder thighs or fat ankles.  Nor are there many young women with beer bellies, unless they are pregnant or the rest of their body is also proportioned toward the extra, extra large. The surprise to scientists was why.  “The scientists were shocked to find major sexual dimorphism of fat tissue storage and distribution in high-fat-diet-induced obese male and female mice,” the report said.  In other words, it’s in our genes.

The study was done on mice who, as it turns out, have similar sex-based fat distribution pattern to humans.  But there were some definite surprises in the data, particularly for the men.

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First, fat tissue is completely different between men and women.  “”We found that out of about 40,000 mouse genes, only 138 are commonly found in both male and female fat cells,” said Dr. Deborah Clegg, assistant professor of internal medicine at University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center and senior author of the study.  Since the substance of fat is so different between the genders, the treatment must be different as well, and in that way, women have the advantage.  “Fat on the hips, thighs and butt is subcutaneous and therefore treatable with liposuction. However, belly fat in men is typically visceral and too deep to be treated with liposuction. The only way to reduce this kind of fat, which is considered a health risk, is with diet and exercise,” New Beauty reports.  Get on those bikes, boys!

But women got some bad news in the study as well, and dang, we knew this all along, too.  “In the female mice whose ovaries had been removed — a condition similar to human menopause — put on the high fat diet, weight gain was greater and more likely to be in the belly,” UPI reports.  So women’s fat cells relocate!  Just when we think we’ve got a solution to our “problem area,” it changes neighborhoods!

But Dr. Clegg gives us some hope.  “Although our new findings don’t explain why women begin storing fat in their bellies after menopause, the results do bring us a step closer to understanding the mechanisms behind the unwanted shift.”

Thanks, Dr. Clegg.  But at the risk of sounding vindictive, I’d feel better if those guys had some kinda “shift,” too.  Just once I’d like to see a man whose fat gut slipped to his backside.  But every woman knows – that ain’t going to happen.  It’s in our genes.

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