High Fat Meals: Worse for Men than Women? New Study Results

Patient Expert

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With much evidence to prove it, we are a nation susceptible to the temptations of fast food and generally poor eating habits. The result is the current obesity crunch. When it comes to a "just say no" approach, most of us can use some practice. But men may be less equipped than women to claim victory in the battle of the bluge.

Investigators at the  Cedars-Sinai Diabetes and Obesity Research Institute  have recently found that male lab mice given the same high-fat diet as female lab mice developed brain inflammation and heart disease that the female mice did not.

One of the differences, the study suggests, seems to be in how the brains of men and women work. (For the wise guys among us, it might be tempting to say that opposite gender brains don't work at all.) However the study shows that the female brain has a strong protective component when it comes to the harmful effects of high-fat meals.

The Male/Female Fat-Fighting Brain Game

While in the study, both gender mice were fed diets the equivalent of hamburgers and soda, brains of the male mice became inflamed and their hearts were damaged. The female mice showed neither brain inflammation nor heart damage. Researchers believe that the female mice have a biological defense against the harmful effects of high-fat foods that can cause brain inflammation and heart disease.

Since brain inflammation may be a key factor for obesity, these study results are significant. The effects of eating fatty or sugared foods can occur during  a short period, and the current research suggests that nutritional recommendations for men and women at risk for obesity may no longer be the same. The occasional high-fat meal may be something only a female can indulge in, while men should always avoid those meals.

In addition to gender specific recommendations for diet, another nuance may be gender-specific recommendations for drugs that help to manage obesity.

Scientists further tested the theory that female brains are more equipped to protect against certain harmful effects of high-fat meals than are male brains. They found that when the brains of male mice were manipulated to resemble the brains of female mice in chemical composition, that the anti-inflammation characteristics of the female brain would develop in the males.

Prior research conducted by study author Deborah Clegg found that female fat tissues can store extra fat while male tissues cannot. Women tend to grow fat in hips and thighs, but men pack on pounds in the belly where fat cells have less expandability. Animal data has shown that the excess fat goes to the brain.

Evolutionary science explains that females store more fat in their thighs and hips in order to prepare their bodies for pregnancy. Whereas men tend to store fat in the pancreas, heart, and brain.

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References:** Cedars-Sinai**

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