In a new study carried out by the researchers from Uppsala University, in Sweden, the scientists revealed that genes dictate where the body stores fat tissues. However, this process is more prevalent in women than in men. The researchers published a report on their findings in the Nature Communications journal.
“We know that women and men tend to store fat differently – women have the ability to more easily store fat on the hips and legs, while men tend to accumulate fat around the abdomen to a higher extent,” said Mathias Rask-Andersen, the study’s leading author.
“This has been attributed to the effects of sex hormones such as estrogen. But the molecular mechanisms that control this phenomenon are fairly unknown,” the researcher added.
The scientists analyzed data from more than 360,000 voluntary participants and the data from the UK Biobank. Millions of genetic variants across the studied genome have been investigated to find out how the body stores fat tissue and how the fat is distributed on legs, arms, the trunk, and so on.
Genes Dictate Where The Body Stores Fat Tissue
“We were struck by a large number of genetic effects that were stronger, or only present, in females. Upon closer examination, several of the associated genes were found to encode proteins that actively shape the extracellular matrix, which makes up the supporting structure around cells,” explained Asa Johansson.
Fat stored on the belly is more prevalent in men than in women, and it has been linked to higher risks of diseases. That’s why men are more exposed to cardiovascular diseases. As for women, the scientists revealed that females’ bodies store more fat on the hips and legs, thus protecting them against heart conditions. The new research might pave the way to interventions to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.
“The biological systems we highlight in our study have the potential to be used as points-of-intervention for new drugs that are aimed at improving the distribution of body fat and thereby reducing the risk of disease,” concluded Mathias Rask-Andersen.