New Study Finds That Sugar And A Sedentary Lifestyle Affect Men More Than Women

Men and women not only differ physically, but they also differ in the likelihood of certain diseases. According to the Whitehead Institute at MIT, women are more susceptible to autoimmune diseases, and men are more vulnerable to cardiovascular disease. A recent study in Endocrinology looked at these biological differences in terms of insulin resistance.

The researchers recruited 36 young men and women to reduce their daily step count to 5,000 and drink six cans of sugary drinks per day. After 10 days, the men had a significant drop in adropin compared to the women. Adropin is a fat-burning hormone that improves cardiovascular function and insulin sensitivity (via a 2020 study in Molecules). Because of the lower levels of insulin, the men also had decreased blood flow to the legs (via a news release about the study).

"To our knowledge, this is the first evidence in humans that vascular insulin resistance can be provoked by short-term adverse lifestyle changes, and it's the first documentation of sex-related differences in the development of vascular insulin resistance in association with changes in adropin levels," said one of the study's authors, University of Missouri Associate Professor of Medicine Camila Manrique-Acevedo, M.D., in a news release.

How women are protected from insulin resistance

Insulin helps regulate glucose in the blood, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Insulin resistance occurs when the body doesn't respond to the insulin to regulate this glucose. The pancreas can continue to make insulin to try to bring down glucose levels. Prediabetes occurs when the body is insulin resistant or the pancreas can't make enough insulin. Physical inactivity is one of many factors that can contribute to insulin resistance.

However, the current study found that women were somehow protected against this short-term lifestyle change. A 2009 study in Gender Medicine suggested that a woman's estrogen levels could play a role in these differences. Although women tend to have higher body fat than men, men have more fat around the organs, called visceral fat. This fat has been linked to insulin resistance. Women also have higher amounts of adiponectin, which is a hormone that increases insulin sensitivity.