Are High-Fat Meals More Harmful To Males Than Females?

high fat mealsHigh-fat meals are more harmful to males than females, according to a new research study. When it comes to the biological response to a high-fat diet, male and female brains are not equal says the study published in the journal Cell Reports. Research conducted at Cedars-Sinai Diabetes and Obesity Research Institute reveals that the brains of male laboratory mice exposed to the same high-fat diet as female mice counterparts developed brain inflammation and heart disease not seen in females.

The Research

In the study the mice were given the equivalent of a steady diet of hamburgers and soda:

  • The brains of the male mice became inflamed and their hearts were damaged.

  • The female mice showed no brain inflammation and had normal hearts during the diet.

  • The females had a strong protection against the ravages of a high-fat, high-sugar diet that can cause brain inflammation and heart disease.

  • Researchers linked brain inflammation to overeating, harmful changes in blood sugar levels and changes in fat tissue composition that can lead to obesity.

  • The researchers saw an encouraging sign for males; they could manipulate the brain of the mice in such a way they would develop the anti-inflammation characteristics of the female brain.


Investigator Deborah Clegg, PhD. says that research suggests that when it comes to nutritional guidance aimed at keeping patients from becoming dangerously overweight, one size may not fit all. She added that an occasional high-fat meal may be okay for women, but something men at risk for obesity will need to avoid always. For the first time we have identified remarkable differences in the sexes when it comes to how the body responds to high-fat diets, she said. It is as if the brains of females had a chemical force field that kept the dangers of fats and sugars from harming them. When we caused the male brain to resemble the female brain in chemical composition, it was protected from the dangerous inflammatory effects a high-fat diet created in the normal male brain. It provided more proof that the female brain inherently possesses certain chemical qualities that protects her from the dangers of a high-fat diet.

The Next Step

The next step in the research of sex differences and nutrition is to investigate these initial findings in humans. Identifying which factors appear to protect female brains from high-fat inflammation and their hearts from disease could significantly impact the future treatment of obesity and diabetes for all patients.

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