Obesity affects men and women differently

Research has found that women are at higher risk of genetic obesity, though obese men are more likely to have kidney failure and start smoking.

Myupchar October 30, 2019 14:46:04 IST
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Obesity affects men and women differently
  • Research has found that women are at higher risk of genetic obesity, though obese men are more likely to have kidney failure and start smoking

  • While obese men have more abdominal fat (high waist to hip ratio), women tend to be more at risk of genetic obesity

  • Obesity is responsible for about two-thirds of all the deaths caused by non-communicable diseases in the world

It’s a known fact that male and female bodies are different, not just anatomically but also genetically - remember the XX and XY genes from eighth grade? Now, research done at the University of Oxford has found that women are at higher risk of genetic obesity, though obese men are more likely to have kidney failure and start smoking!

The research

The research was conducted with 228,466 women and 195,041 men to find specific ways in which a male and female body reacts to obesity. The Oxford team led by a scientific leader and fellow, Dr Cecilia Lindgren found that obese men are prone to an entirely different set of conditions than obese women, which range from kidney failure to lung cancer.

Obesity affects men and women differently

Representational image. Image source: Getty Images.

The research was published in PLOS Genetics, a peer-reviewed open-access journal by the Public Library of Science, UK.

Gender matters

There can be many causes for obesity - disturbances in body metabolism, underlying health conditions like hypothyroidism and an inactive lifestyle. These are just some of the factors that can make one obese. A person is said to be obese if their body mass index (BMI) — the weight to height ratio — is equal to or above 30.

However, obesity manifests in different ways in men and women. While obese men have more abdominal fat (high waist to hip ratio), women tend to be more at risk of genetic obesity.

The study used BMI, waist to hip ratio (WHR) and the relation between the two as determining factors for complications. 

The following inferences were made:

  • Obese women are more prone to type 2 diabetes.
  • Both genders are equally prone to heart diseases and stroke.
  • High BMI and WHR together lead to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease in men. Interestingly, the study found that obesity induces "behavioural changes" in men - it makes men smoke more (possibly as a weight loss strategy as smoking suppresses appetite). Heavier smoking, in turn, increases their risk of developing lung cancer. The same effect was not seen in women.
  • Central fat distribution increased the chances of chronic kidney failure more in men than in women.

How is the study beneficial 

Obesity is responsible for about two-thirds of all the deaths caused by non-communicable diseases in the world even though most obesity-associated diseases are preventable through a healthy lifestyle and balanced diet. If we know the at-risk population, it would be much easier to take specific measures and save more lives.

In a press release by the University of Oxford, Michael Holmes, an associate professor at the university and the co-supervisor of the study, explained the implications of the research. He said, "Given the compelling evidence of harm that arises as a consequence of obesity across a broad range of diseases that result in death, our findings highlight the critical need for public health measures to stem the tide of obesity."

Health articles in Firstpost are written by myUpchar.com, India’s first and biggest resource for verified medical information. At myUpchar, researchers and journalists work with doctors to bring you information on all things health. For more information, please read our article on Diabetes: Symptoms, Causes, Treatment, Complications.

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