Obesity carries a ton of negative health consequences for both men and women, but when it comes to carb intolerance and diminished exercise endurance, it seems the excess heft weighs heavier on him than on her.
Dutch researchers examined 56 severely obese patients of both genders, and found that 59% of the men suffered from impaired carbohydrate intolerance - compared to only 35% of the women. When subjects were put on stationary bikes to test respiratory capacity, muscle strength and endurance, the men failed to meet anticipated levels, while the women surpassed expectations.
"We were surprised by our findings," said study co-author Dr. Emile Dubois. "We had the idea that severely obese men and women would both have muscle and endurance capacities above normal because they're carrying a lot of weight around all day long. But this was only true among women. The men really underperformed."
One explanation for the variation was that women tend to store fat on the lower body as opposed to around the midsection, as with men. Abdominal fat increases pressure on the lungs, making it harder to breathe when exercising. As explored in a previous Director's Corner, "Fat: It Doesn't Just Sit There," researchers also speculate that visceral fat (deposited around the organs in the midsection) might be more metabolically harmful than the layer directly underneath the skin.
But obese women are hardly in the clear - indeed they face their own set of health threats, such as much higher rates of malignant cervical, breast cancer and uterine cancer when compared to their leaner peers.
Bottom line: regardless of gender, obesity will increase disease risk, decrease lifespan and limit quality of life, so don't let the pounds creep up on you, and take measures to lose excess weight.
Learn more at the Dole Nutrition Institute.