New research shows that the subcutaneous fat found on women’s bodies in areas such as the hips, arms, and backs, could provide a lot of protection against brain inflammation, something that can cause stroke, dementia and more.
This is the case until menopause starts, at least.
On the other hand, visceral adiposity is much more inflammatory, tends to gather on the major organs in the abdominal cavity and is most common among men of all ages!
In addition to that, men are also at a higher risk of developing diseases linked to inflammation like stroke and heart attacks prior to when women reach menopause.
Neuroscientist Alexis M. Stranahan shares that “When people think about protection in women, the first thought is estrogen. But we have to get beyond the sort of simplistic idea that every difference between sexes involves hormone differences and exposure. We need to think deeper about underlying mechanisms for sex differences so we can treat them and acknowledge the role sex plays in different clinical outcomes.”
Stranahan, who is the author of a new study published in the American Diabetes Association journal, also mentioned that genetics as well as diet are also two other important factors that can explain the difference generally linked to estrogen.
She admitted that these new findings were surprising even to her, noting that “We did these experiments to, first of all, attempt and nail down,what happens first, the hormone perturbation, inflammation or the brain changes.”
To reach this conclusion, Stranahan and her team looked at how male and female mice reacted on high fat diets.
More precisely, they took note of the increases in the amount and the location of fat tissue but also at the levels of brain inflammation and sex hormones in both male and female mice.
Just like people, overweight female mice have less visceral fat and more subcutaneous fat than male mice, suggesting that these distinctive fat patterns may correlate to the increased inflammation protection women enjoy before reaching menopause.
Around 48 weeks after entering this life stage however, females become much more like males in this regard.
Stranahan explained that “When we took subcutaneous fat out of the equation, suddenly, the females’ brains begin to exhibit inflammation the way male brains do, and females gained more visceral fat. It kind of shunted everything toward the other storage location.”