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Belly fat or hip fat -- it really is all in your genes, says UT Southwestern researcher
Date:5/14/2010

DALLAS May 18, 2010 The age-old question of why men store fat in their bellies and women store it in their hips may have finally been answered: Genetically speaking, the fat tissue is almost completely different.

"We found that out of about 40,000 mouse genes, only 138 are commonly found in both male and female fat cells," said Dr. Deborah Clegg, assistant professor of internal medicine at UT Southwestern Medical Center and senior author of the study appearing in the International Journal of Obesity. "This was completely unexpected. We expected the exact opposite that 138 would be different and the rest would be the same between the sexes."

The study involved mice, which distribute their fat in a sexually dimorphic pattern similar to humans.

"Given the difference in gene expression profiles, a female fat tissue won't behave anything like a male fat tissue and vice versa," Dr. Clegg said. "The notion that fat cells between males and females are alike is inconsistent with our findings."

In humans, men are more likely to carry extra weight around their guts while pre-menopausal women store it in their butts, thighs and hips. The bad news for men is that belly, or visceral, fat has been associated with numerous obesity-related diseases including diabetes and heart disease. Women, on the other hand, are generally protected from these obesity-related disorders until menopause, when their ovarian hormone levels drop and fat storage tends to shift from their rear ends to their waists.

"Although our new findings don't explain why women begin storing fat in their bellies after menopause, the results do bring us a step closer to understanding the mechanisms behind the unwanted shift," Dr. Clegg said.

For this study, researchers used a microarray analysis to determine whether male fat cells and female fat cells were different between the waist and hips and if they were different based on gender at a genetic
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Contact: Kristen Holland Shear
Kristen.hollandshear@utsouthwestern.edu
214-648-3404
UT Southwestern Medical Center
Source:Eurekalert

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