Anyone who's ever watched a young male athlete chow down fast food might be surprised by the findings of a new study conducted on mice fed a high-fat diet, in which the males were more likely to develop brain inflammation and heart disease than the females.
"For the first time, we have identified remarkable differences in the sexes when it comes to how the body responds to high-fat diets," says Cedars-Sinai Diabetes and Obesity Research Institute scientist Deborah Clegg. "The brains of the male mice became inflamed and their hearts were damaged. But the female mice showed no brain inflammation and had normal hearts during the diet."
Dr. Clegg and her team fed the mice what she says is the equivalent of a steady diet of hamburgers and soda. She couldn't say for sure what protected the females against the harmful effects of such an unhealthy diet but likens it to a chemical force.
"These findings on how the brains and bodies of males and females respond so differently to nutrients suggests we have to reconsider whether the diets and drugs we recommend for managing obesity may need to be sex-specific to be more effective," said Richard Bergman, PhD, director of the Diabetes and Obesity Research Institute.
If these findings do apply to humans -- which is next on the team's list of things to find out -- men need not despair just yet because the researchers say male brains can be manipulated to develop the protective characteristics of female brains.
At least in mice.
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