Severe Obesity May Hit Men Harder

Severe obesity may be harder on men than on women, new research shows.

That's what scientists saw in a small group of severely obese people -- 22 men and 34 women. Data came from blood samples and endurance tests on stationary bikes.

The results show that severely obese men had more trouble handling carbohydrates and less endurance than the women.

"It appears that carbohydrate intolerance is more common in obese men, which would cause them to be less physically fit than obese women," says researcher Emile Dubois, MD, PhD, FCCP, in a news release.

The findings appear in the July issue of Chest.

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Fat Location May Matter

The participants were enrolled in a hospital's weight management program. They each had a body mass index (BMI) of at least 40.

Obesity is defined as a BMI of 30 or more. A person who is severely obese has a BMI of greater than 40. Obesity is the principle driver for the metabolic syndrome (a cluster of risk factors that increase the risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease) and diabetes, they write.

Obesity-related heart disease and diabetes risk are specifically related to upper body fat distribution, they add.

In men, obesity tends to gather around the upper body. In women, it's often centered in the lower body, write Dubois and colleagues.

"It is possible that women are better equipped for energy storage due to their inherent need to feed their offspring," write Dubois and colleagues.

Dubois works in the pulmonary diseases department of the Hospital Reinier de Graaf Groep in the Netherlands.

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Obesity Common in the U.S.

About one in three U.S. adults aged 20 or older (60 million people) is obese, according to the CDC.

Adding those who are overweight but not obese (BMI of 25-29.9), the figure rises to 65 percent of the same age group.

The CDC does not provide statistics on severe obesity.

"Obesity can lead to impaired lung function, sleep disorders, [heart] disease, and other health conditions," says Paul Kvale, MD, FCCP, in the news release.

"Therefore, health care providers should encourage their obese patients to lose weight and assist them in doing so in a healthful manner," he says.

Kvale didn't work on the study. He's the president of the American College of Chest Physicians.

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By Miranda Hitti, reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD

SOURCES: Dolfin, J. Chest, July 2005; vol 128: pp 256-262. News release, American College of Chest Physicians. CDC, "Overweight and Obesity: Frequently Asked Questions."