Weight loss for women: Why it's harder, and what scientists are doing to help

January 28, 2013 5:16:10 PM PST
As you may know, it's easier for men to lose weight than women. It may not be fair, but now there's some science to explain what's going on.

Tammy and Chris Garner started working out together. They were doing the same workouts, but he dropped more weight than she did.

"You have to work extremely hard, sometimes more than you want to, as opposed to your husband who stops eating two cheeseburgers and loses 10 pounds," Tammy said.

It's a frustrating reality for women. It gets harder to lose weight the older you get, and weight tends to end up on the abdomen.

Why? Blame genetics and how your genetics interact with your diet. And for women, blame the drop in estrogen.

Ohio state researchers say estrogen suppresses an enzyme that causes extra fat around the middle.

In young women, estrogen appears to help burn fat more efficiently. But as estrogen drops, the enzyme gets more active and helps create visceral fat -- the fat around the belly -- and this belly fat increases even when women eat a healthy diet.

"While males are prone to visceral obesity throughout their lives, in females it's not the case. It's very estrogen-dependent and also food quality-dependent," said Ouliana Ziouzenkova, PhD with the Ohio State Cancer Center.

But there is hope: the scientists removed the enzyme that created the belly fat in mice, and the female mice stayed lean, even when they ate a fatty diet. So scientists hope this enzyme might become a way to develop an anti-obesity treatment that would work just for women.

Scientists say the future may lie in "his and her" weight loss drugs, but since the enzyme is in all cells, they have to find a way to make sure any treatment just targets the creation of fat.

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