considering one’s risk for cardiometabolic disease, the location of fat in the
body is as important, if not more important, than the total amount of body fat.
The factors that determine where fat is stored and what makes some fat depots
more harmful to health than others are not completely understood. However, sex
hormones are believed to play a role in determining body fat distribution. This
is demonstrated by the sex differences observed in body fat distribution between
premenopausal women (pear-shaped, fat storage in hips and thighs) and men (apple-shaped,
fat storage in abdominal region), and further reinforced by the shift towards increased
abdominal fat accumulation in postmenopausal women with the loss of estrogen.
Gavin’s research project funded by the CWHR will investigate if cells (progenitor
cells from bone marrow) that were not previously believed to contribute to fat
generation in humans are indeed capable of becoming fat cells and if this
differs between younger and older women and men; thereby potentially playing a
role in sex differences in body fat distribution. The next step in her research
will be to determine if the loss of female sex hormones (e.g., estrogen) plays
a role in the generation of new fat cells from this unexpected source. The
results of this investigation may reveal potential mechanistic targets for
future therapies to reduce the negative health outcomes associated with obesity
related chronic diseases (e.g., cardiovascular disease and Type 2 diabetes) in
aging women and men, and if these therapies may need to differ based on sex.