Obese Women Are Different Than Men

Over and over, we’re given options to lose weight this way and that, and they spread them across the board. There are those who blame women’s habits for women having a harder time losing weight than men, but it’s more than that. For one thing, testosterone is a natural fat burner that women just don’t have as much of.

Women actually gain weight for different reasons than men, and it’s not just the basic hormones. Obese women, according to a study in the journal Cell Biology, have a specific, food related learning deficit as they call it that is not observed in obese men or people of healthy weight. This may explain why they gain so much weight.

Researchers looked at this by presenting men and women with different colored squares and then pictures of rewards (food or money). They were then asked to predict the likelihood of a reward after a certain color or pattern. It was only obese women who struggled to accurately predict when a food picture would come, but they easily predicted the money suggesting a different learning curve when it comes to food.

Co-author Ifat Levy PhD, neuroscientist at Yale University says, I must admit that we did not expect a gender difference. She explains that it might be that obese people have additional cognitive loads when it comes to food. Levy continues, Women are generally more concerned about being obese or their appearance, and therefore this load may be heavier for women.

Of course, they will need to conduct more studies to determine if the learning deficit is actually the cause or the other way around. Levy posits, It could be that obese individuals – or at least obese women – fail to flexibly adjust their valuation of food. For example, when we are hungry, food is perceived as highly rewarding. But when we are full, the food is less rewarding and can even be aversive. It is possible that some obese individuals fail to recognize the change in their internal environment, and thus keep regarding the food as highly rewarding even when it should not be.

Levy hopes for her research to help move the field of obesity research along and break into more of the actual causes to find better treatments.

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