Latest News » New research concludes weight loss is tougher for women

Obesity treatments don't address the influence that gender has on weight loss.

For a long time, it's mostly been anecdotal evidence that has led many women to believe men have it easier when it comes to losing weight. However, new research has shown that this is actually true. A new study from the journal Molecular Metabolism analyzed how gender could influence weight loss, finding a way to improve future treatments for obesity.

The research team, comprised of scientists from the University of Aberdeen, University of Cambridge and University of Michigan, observed weight loss patterns in mice, whose genetic and physiological make-up match that of humans in many ways. By placing the mice on a diet and exercise plan, the researchers were able to help obese male mice with large appetites and little physical activity become healthy and lean. That weight loss did not occur in the female mice.

"Currently there is no difference in how obesity is treated in men and women," said Professor Lora Heisler from the Rowett Institute of Nutrition and Health, who led the research team. "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."

Currently, the World Health Organization reports higher rates of obesity in women than in men. Heisler explained that certain cells in the brain make hormones called pro-opiomelanocortin (POMC) peptides that are responsible for regulating appetite, physical activity, energy expenditure and body weight. Obesity treatments often target these POMC neurons, specifically in medication in the U.S.

Heisler said that this new discovery demonstrates that not every POMC neuron performs the same function, though. In men, obesity medication could suppress appetite, promote physical activity and regulate energy expenditure, while in women that same medication might only reduce appetite. The researchers anticipate that these findings will have significant implications on how obesity is treated in men and women by creating more sex-specific medications and weight loss plans.

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