Have you noticed how often women talk about their weight and what new diet they’ve started, while men are more interested in conversing about the latest cars and techno gadgets? Well, there may be a reason for this since research has found sex differences with obesity. Lets get the facts:
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (2001), obesity is associated with 300,000 deaths and health care costs exceeding $117 billion in the United States each year. The National Center for Health Statistics (2003-2004) shows us that 66% of U.S. adults are overweight or obese. There is alot of work to be done if we want a healthier population that doesn’t drive health care costs through the roof.
Research shows that women have more total body fat and subcutaneous adipose tissue than men. Women also have a wider hip circumference than men.
Men have more total lean muscle mass, higher weight, larger waist circumference and more visceral adipose tissue. This type of fat is more dangerous since it surrounds the organs and raises the risk for heart disease and diabetes.
On the psychological end of things…men are less likely to recognize themselves as overweight, whereas women are much more conscious of their weight and have a higher dietary restraint. Women also tend to over-consume more in response to stimuli such as emotional stress.
Sex hormones and genetics affect fat distribution, with testosterone increasing central adiposity (around the waist) and estrogen giving women more hip/thigh fat distribution. Once women enter menopause, the rules begin to change. There actually seems to be more similarities among men and women’s fat distribution due to the decline in estrogen and progesterone. Women start to develop increased visceral fat (remember, not good) and decreased subcutaneous fat which is similar to men. Waist circumference increases and hip circumference decreases creating an increased waist-hip ratio. Since there is not enough estrogen and preogesterone to compete for the same receptors as testosterone, testosterone wins out giving women more of an android fat distribution. Some women can even develop facial hair and a receding hair line. Do women really turn into men after menopause?
We do know that cardiovascular risks in post-menopausal women reach the same as mens probably due to the “bad” cholesterol, LDL going up and the “good” cholesterol, HDL going down. With a dramatic drop of estrogen production, testosterone emerges as the main hormone produced by the post menopausal ovaries.
Living a healthy lifestyle, including exercise can make a big difference in these risk factors. Some women will also choose hormone replacement therapy which will delay the onset of these masculinization characteristics and cardiovascular risks if started early in menopause.