Researchers have discovered that women are more likely to gain weight in the abdomen than men if they consume a high-fat diet.
Researchers from the Ohio State University found that a high-fat diet triggered chemical reactions in female mice which boost the formation of visceral fat cells.
The study identified events in female mice that start with the activation of an enzyme and end with the formation of visceral fat – fat that accumulates around internal organs and is linked to a higher risk for Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and cancer.
This enzyme appears to be activated at higher levels in females than in males when both sexes eat a high-fat diet.
When researchers genetically altered mice by deleting the enzyme, female mice stayed lean, especially in the abdominal area, even when they continued to eat a lot of fat.
Males without the enzyme also developed less fat, but the effect was far less significant than in females.
The study also suggested that estrogen suppresses the enzyme’s activity, which might help explain why postmenopausal women with decreased estrogen in their bodies tend to accumulate fat in their bellies.