Previously, scientists have shown that subcutaneous fat protects the brain from inflammation. However, it is still unknown how much of the protective effects are related to visceral adiposity. It is believed that men deposit more visceral adipose around abdominal organs, which is associated with a higher risk of obesity-related diseases. It is also known that women’s subcutaneous fat stores allow them to have sufficient energy reserves for reproduction.
Researchers at Augusta University have been studying the relationship between obesity and the brain. During a study, male and female mice were fed high-fat diets for six months. In addition to the fatty tissue changes, they observed changes in sex hormones. While estrogen levels did not change, sex hormones were increased in male mice when they were treated with palmitic acid, a compound that promotes inflammation in the body. The male mice also deposited more visceral fat. This put the men at a higher risk of inflammation.
To determine whether subcutaneous fat protected the brain from inflammation, scientists examined the effects of removing the fat on the hippocampus, which is important for learning and memory. They also studied the levels of sex hormones in the mice and the location of fat storage. While the researchers found that both groups of mice had inflammation, the females had much lower inflammation than the males. Their inflammation was accompanied by classic inflammation promoters, including the signaling proteins IL-1b and TNF alpha. In addition, the number of ERa receptor expressing neurons was lower in the males. The researchers concluded that the loss of subcutaneous fat does not affect estrogen levels and may provide protection against inflammation-related disorders in the brain.
Another explanation for the female’s ability to maintain a healthy brain may be her diet. Previous studies have linked subcutaneous fat to sex hormones like estrogen. This may help explain why women are more likely to store their fat in subcutaneous areas of the body, rather than in the belly.
A high-fat diet is associated with an increase in inflammation in the body and the brain. It is also known that women during menopause produce less estrogen, which puts them at a higher risk for chronic illnesses related to inflammation. These findings indicate that assessing the hormone profiles of women before and during menopause may be important in maintaining a healthy aging trajectory for the brain.
Currently, there is not enough evidence to determine if women can protect themselves from inflammation-related diseases during their reproductive years. Although many women believe they can prevent disease by limiting their intake of unhealthy foods, research suggests that a low-fat diet may not be the answer. According to Stranahan, many questions still remain about the relationship between the level of fat in a woman’s body and her metabolism. He says a lot more studies are needed to answer these questions.
He believes the next step is to assess the effects of subcutaneous fat on other regions of the brain. Because of the diversity of adipose tissues, it is possible that the loss of subcutaneous fat could have a vastly different impact on different areas of the brain.