Fat Storage in Women: From Puberty to the Menopause
During growth in healthy normal weight humans, women accumulate a higher total and percent body fat compared with men, a difference which becomes more marked at puberty and continues throughout adult life. The reason for this sexual dimorphism is not known; however, it probably relates to sex steroids since they have profound effects on body composition and growth at puberty. The first half of pregnancy is also a stage of adipose tissue gain and growth in women. There is no definitive explanation as to why women should have a greater percent body fat than men, as the latter consume more calories proportionately. Moreover, the storage of fat in women, resulting in increased fat mass in early pregnancy, occurs when caloric intake does not significantly change. Therefore, the aim of this chapter is to focus on evidence supporting one mechanism that may account for these observed findings. That is, oestrogen reduces fatty acid oxidation leading to an increase in body fat which may account for the greater fat mass observed in women compared with men, and the fat gain in early pregnancy. Therefore, female puberty and early pregnancy could be seen as states of efficient energy storage of fat to allow adipose tissue to grow in preparation for fertility, foetal development and lactation providing an obvious biological advantage. Further research into this mechanism of fat storage may provide further insights into the regulation of body fat.
KeywordsOestrogen Adipose tissue Fatty acid oxidation Pregnancy Body composition Growth
Liver fatty acid binding protein
National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys
The author wishes to thank Professor Ken Ho for guidance and input into some of the earlier studies quoted in this chapter.
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