For women, shedding the pounds can feel like a unending struggle of dieting and exercise with little results. But a new study suggests that there could be a reason why females find it more difficult to lose weight than men.
Researchers say hormones responsible for regulating appetite, physical activity and energy expenditure work differently in the sexes.
The discovery could change the way obesity is tackled through targeted medication, experts at the University of Aberdeen believe. Working with teams from the University of Cambridge and the University of Michigan, they used a mouse model to study how weight gain differs in each sex depending on physical activity and energy expenditure.
During the study, researchers were able to transform obese male into lean, healthy mice, but the same transformation did not occur in the female mice.
Current obesity medications stimulate the production of POMC peptides in the brain which regulate appetite, increase energy expenditure through heat and encourage movement. But researchers found in female mice the hormones only regulated appetite — they did not have the extra benefits.
Women more obese
The project was led by Professor Lora Heisler from the Rowett Institute of Nutrition and Health at the University of Aberdeen.
She said: “The World Health Organisation reports higher rates of obesity in women worldwide, reaching twice the prevalence of men in some parts of the world.Currently there is no difference in how obesity is treated in men and women. However, what we have discovered is that the part of the brain that has a significant influence on how we use the calories that we eat is wired differently in males and females.”
Around 66 per cent of men and 57 per cent of women in the UK are overweight or obese. By 2030, 74 per cent of men and 64 per cent of women would be overweight or obese.
Weight gain is a risk factor for many health problems, including diabetes, heart disease, stroke and some cancers. Obesity and diabetes already costs the UK over £5 billion every year which is likely to rise to £50 billion in the next 36 years.
The research, published in the journal Molecular Metabolism, could lead to the development of new sex-specific medications. Prof. Heisler added: “More than half of people in the UK are overweight and one in four are clinically obese.”
— Source: www.telegraph.co.uk