High Fat Diets Worse for Male Brains

Deborah Clegg, PhD Research Scientist, Diabetes and Obesity Research Institute Associate Professor, Department of Biomedical Science Cedars-Sinai Medical Center Los Angeles, CA 90048MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Deborah Clegg, PhD
Research Scientist, Diabetes and Obesity Research Institute
Associate Professor, Department of Biomedical Science
Cedars-Sinai Medical Center
Los Angeles, CA 90048

Medical Research: What are the main findings of the study?

Dr. Clegg: The main findings are that males and females differ with respect to how they process and respond to diets high in fat!!!!  Males following consumption of a diet that is 42% of the calories coming from saturated fat (it would be analogous to eating a big mac and having a coke), gained the same amount of weight as did the females BUT the males had increased markers of inflammation in their brains and the females did not.  With the elevated markers of inflammation, the males had dysregulation in glucose homeostasis and alteration in cardiovascular function – yet the females did not!!

Medical Research: What was most surprising about the results?

Dr. Clegg: When we looked at the fatty acid composition of the brain, the male brains mirrored the fatty acid composition of the diet – yet, the female brains did not!  This suggests that males and females process nutrients differently – which is, to my knowledge, the first time this has ever been shown!!  Females appear to be protected from the deleterious effects of high saturated fat diets whereas the males are not. Females are not protected from gaining weight on these diets – it appears that despite weight gain, the females are still ‘healthier’ than the males.

Medical Research: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?

Dr. Clegg: Males and females differ with respect to the prevalence of the metabolic syndrome – females are relatively protected prior to menopause.  Our data for the first time begin to shed light on how and what it is about being female that affords protection.  If we are able to replicate our findings in humans, the recommendations for men with pre-existing comorbidities for heart disease might be more stringent with respect to consumption of saturated fats; whereas for women, the recommendations might be less stringent.  It might be occasionally ‘ok’ for women to eat a meal that is higher in saturated fat – she might still gain weight from it – but, she won’t have as many of the negative metabolic effects associated with consumption of those fats.  Put simply, women may gain weight but they remain metabolically ‘healthy’ whereas men do not.

Medical Research: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Dr. Clegg: We need to replicate these findings in humans.  If we are able to replicate, then we need to work on targeting therapeutic recommendations based on sex.  Currently, there are not sex-specific recommendations and our data as well as others, are beginning to suggest that men and women are not the same and recommendations and therapies should differ by sex!!

Citation:

Hypothalamic PGC-1α Protects Against High-Fat Diet Exposure by Regulating ERα

Morselli, Eugenia et al.  Cell Reports DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.celrep.2014.09.025

 

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