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Why it's harder for women to lose their potbellies than men

Researchers find it may not be just about dieting for women

Many times when you’re younger, you can hide the fact that you may be inactive and tend not to exercise that much, since young metabolisms often move fast enough to hide some of your lifestyle choices.

And for the most part, younger people can eat what they want, exercise very little and still maintain a sleek build, which is one of the many perks that young folks are given through no doing of their own.

However when age starts to creep in, it’s harder and harder for those who live a sedentary lifestyle to mask their level of inactivity, as weight tends to pack on easier and there are more physical clues that show you’re not living an active lifestyle, like not being able to climb a flight of stairs without being out of breath.

But probably one of the biggest ways an adult can show they may not be getting enough exercise, is by sporting the all-too-common potbelly that’s difficult to hide and is a tell-tale sign that you probably aren’t spending your days jogging, doing crunches or staying away from that late-night jelly donut.

And one of the major contributors to the pot belly, paunch or beer gut, isn’t beer or even inactivity, say researchers, it’s consuming a high amount of fatty foods that never get burned off, so a combination of eating healthier and doing your best to stay active is what helps eliminate the amount of paunch or prevent it from developing in the first place.

But is that the case for both sexes?

According to experts, it’s much harder for women to lose abdominal fat compared to men, and further proof of this comes through a new set of research that found high-fat diets, as well as estrogen loss are the main reasons women find losing weight more challenging than men, especially when it comes to losing weight in their midsection.

Mouse enzyme

In a study conducted at Ohio State University, researchers found an enzyme in mice that’s linked to both high-fat diets and the estrogen hormone, and that particular enzyme causes women to gain weight differently than men.

Researchers also said that humans carry these same enzymes, but women tend to carry them more, which ends up being a major contributor to their weight gain.

Ouliana Ziouzenkova

“It could be true that what we show about this hormone’s importance to visceral obesity in mice is also true for humans,” said Ouliana Ziouzenkova, assistant professor of human nutrition at Ohio State University and senior author of the study.

“As soon as a female starts the high-fat diet consumption, a mechanism for hormonal regulation is turned on and she starts to produce retinoic acid and her metabolism becomes super thrifty. Females will store more fat than they burn. By removing the ALDH1A1 enzyme in visceral fat, we could make females release fat and burn it. We make them super-metabolically active instead.”

And because researchers have found the ALDH1A1 enzyme to be a major contributor to female weight gain, Ziouzenkova says targeting that enzyme may be what’s actually needed to combat female obesity. She also says that for women looking to lose weight, diet and exercise may not be enough due to the genetic factors that come into play.

“If you asked most people what they believe causes obesity, they would probably say high food consumption and a sedentary lifestyle, Ziouzenkova said. “But we see that there are genetic factors telling the body what to do with fat. “A high-fat diet acts on our genetics to make us more fat or less fat. The diet is not powerful enough to do this on its own.”

Stored differently

The study also confirms that it’s harder for women to lose weight, particularly in their midsection, as they get older, since women store fat differently than men.

When women are of a younger age, the estrogen hormone helps them lose weight, and as they get older, those estrogen levels drop, which causes the ALDH1A1 hormone to become more active and cause more weight gain,  researchers say.

And even if women are dieting properly, they still will more than likely have a harder time compared to men when losing weight, which may explain why both you and your husband can eliminate the same unhealthy foods, but he tends to lose weight much faster and easier than you.

“While males are prone to visceral obesity throughout their life, in females it’s not the case, its very estrogen dependent and also food quality dependent, says Ziouzenkova.

She also says that if women are eating a high-fat diet they are nine times more likely to gain weight throughout their body than men, particularly in their midsection.

Ziouzenkova also says that women should be eating healthier than their male counterparts in the first place to avoid belly fat and additional weight gain, and since both sexes lose weight and store fat differently, both should be approaching their chosen diets differently.

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