Coss summarizes the findings, saying, “We found that the mice proceed to gain weight when fed a high-fat diet, suggesting that ovarian hormones are indeed protective against weight gain.”
However, the health consequences of carrying excess body weight do not stop here. “Obese men have lower testosterone levels, contributing to low libido, low energy, and reduced muscle strength,” explains Coss. “We see this in mice, too; obese male mice showed nearly 50 per cent decreases in testosterone and sperm number.”
Pear-shaped bodies and brain inflammation
However, the research also suggests that women are more protected against the harmful effects of being overweight, a phenomenon that may have a lot to do with women’s body shape and their body fat distribution.
“Our results agree that males have larger visceral fat depots,” say the researchers. Also, the results seem to confirm that premenopausal women tend to deposit fat subcutaneously, or under the skin.
Accumulating fat around the abdomen leads to the “apple-shaped” body, while the fat that gathers around the hips leads to the “pear-shaped” body. Women are likely to develop the latter, and men the former.
Visceral, or abdominal, fat can reach and affect internal organs. Additionally, this type of fat “gets more inflamed with a fat overburden,” as Coss explains. “This fat then recruits immune cells from blood circulation that get activated.”