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It's a sad but true fact that men find it easier to drop the kilos than women. However, new health strategies look set to finally address this imbalance, writes Beverley Hadgraft.
If there weren't enough examples of sexual inequality already, here are some more: men can lose weight more easily than women. Worse, obesity is more prevalent in women than men, there are more factors that cause women to put on weight in the first place, plus the repercussions
can be more serious.
At present, most weight-loss programs and medical interventions are identical for men and women. But that may be about to change. Scientists discussing gender and obesity at an international conference in Bangkok, concluded that it's time to start researching different strategies for the sexes.
Here are some ways you can redress the balance.
Women need to combine diet and exercise men don't
Men can reduce their body fat simply through exercise. Women seem to need to diet as well. Weight-loss expert, Associate Professor Amanda Sainsbury-Salis, says one reason may be because women seem to eat more after exercise, whereas men don't. That could be because women genuinely experience an increase in appetite, or they just think they deserve that cake after a workout.
In addition, women tend to be shorter, weigh less and have less muscle mass than men. The more muscle you have, the more kilojoules you burn.
Men lose more weight on diets than women.
Although this is usually because they are fatter to start with, some studies suggest that, even when matched, women still lose less weight on an identical diet. They also lose less weight after lap-band surgery.
It's genuinely harder for women to lose weight because they tend to store fat around the hips and buttocks and those areas don't give up their fat stores easily, says Professor Garry Egger, co-author of Planet Obesity (Allen & Unwin, $24.99). He has also found that women tend to be less accurate than men when keeping a food diary.
Obesity in expectant mums is a major problem.
According to research from Deakin University, 50 per cent of Australian women of childbearing age are overweight or obese and the majority of women in developed countries gain more weight than is recommended during pregnancy. This can result in long-term obesity, increased pregnancy complications and the risk of obesity, diabetes and metabolic complications in the baby.
The number of large-for-gestational-age babies increased by 23 per cent between 1991 and 2001, largely attributed to the increase in size of their mothers. In addition, a significant per cent of women with polycystic ovary syndrome were born to obese mothers and had high birth weights.
The health risks of abdominal obesity may be greater in women than in men.
A major study from Germany involving more than 13,000 people suggested that abdominal fat in women is more predictive of diabetes and heart disease than in men.
Compared to men, women with type 2 diabetes have double the risk of death because of heart disease and are two to
three times more likely to suffer high blood pressure. In men with diabetes, mortality rates dropped in the years 1971 to 2000.
This was not the case in women. In Europe it now kills more women than men 55 per cent compared to 43 per cent and Sainsbury-Salis says that although she's not aware of corresponding statistics in Australia, she would presume them to be similar since we have similar levels of obesity overall. The issue is such a concern experts want women with abdominal obesity to be given top priority for medically-assisted weight-loss programs.
For the full story, see the July issue of Good Health. Subscribe to Good Health and receive a FREE La Mav Intense Moisture Nightly Repair Nectar, valued at $69.95.