Ladies, if you ever pit yourself against a male partner, sibling, or friend in a weight loss competition, don’t be surprised when you encounter a harsh reality.
Men lose weight faster than women.
New research suggests men also garner more health benefits than women when they lose weight, too.
A study in the journal Diabetes, Obesity and Metabolism detailed the weight loss results of more than 2,200 overweight adults in Europe, Australia, and New Zealand.
Each of the adults also had prediabetes, a condition marked by slightly elevated blood sugar levels. People with prediabetes are at a higher risk for eventually developing type 2 diabetes.
During the eight-week study, these adults followed an 800-calorie diet of mostly soups, shakes, hot cereals, and low-calorie vegetables.
At the end, men lost 16 percent more weight than women — about 26 pounds compared with an average of 22 pounds for women.
Additionally, 35 percent of the men and women in the study had normal blood glucose levels and fell out of the prediabetes classification.
However, that’s not where the good news for the men ends.
As a group, the men had a lower heart rate and less body fat. They also ended with a lower risk for diabetes than the women did.
The low-calorie diet had other impacts on the women in the study and they were not entirely positive.
Women experienced larger reductions in their high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, also known as the “good” type of cholesterol.
They also showed larger reductions in bone mineral density, which can lead to weaker bones.
Their lean body mass also decreased, which slows the metabolism and can slow weight loss.
The type of fat the men in the study lost was also healthier than the type of fat females lost.
Men typically carry their weight in their midsection. This is called visceral fat. When your body sheds visceral fat, it actually supercharges your metabolism and helps you burn more calories. It’s a fat loss win-win.
Women, however, tend to carry their fat around their hips, thighs, and butt. This type of fat, called subcutaneous fat, is important for childbearing and menstruation, but it does nothing for your metabolic health when you lose it.
That’s unfortunate because, in the study, women did lose more inches from their hips than men.
Why does this happen?
Why men tend to lose more weight faster comes down to the difference in how men and women are built.
Physiologically, men are built to burn fat more quickly. They have more lean muscle mass and a naturally higher metabolic rate.
Lean muscle mass also consumes more calories, so the more your body has, the more your body burns.
Likewise, the number of calories in the study unfairly benefited men, too.
Because of their higher metabolism, men often need to consume more calories each day to meet their resting metabolic rate — that is, what their body needs to fulfill basic functions like sleeping and breathing.
With this diet, men and women consumed an equal amount. However, that amount was a larger calorie deficit for the men than for the women. The higher weight loss results could be expected on this fact alone.
“It’s not fair, it’s not fair, it’s not fair,” says Lisa Young, PhD, RD, and author of “Finally Full, Finally Slim: 30 Days to Permanent Weight Loss One Portion at a Time” that’s debuting in January.
“Men have more lean body mass, and lean body mass is a more metabolically active tissue. The more muscle you have, the faster your metabolism,” Young told Healthline. “So, if you have a faster metabolism, you’re going to burn calories faster, and you’re going to lose weight quicker.”
Why weight loss is good
However, don’t let these results discourage you, Young said.
Women can take steps to improve their odds and weight loss is always a net positive for people who are overweight or already facing health issues, such as prediabetes.
“The benefits of weight loss are going to always outweigh the negatives,” she said. “The women’s HDL went down, but I would imagine their LDL, the bad cholesterol, went down, too. And that’s good.”
Young said you can combat many of the negative results this study demonstrated with just one thing: exercise.
“Lift more weights and do more weight-bearing exercises. That will build lean body mass,” she said. “Exercise can elevate your HDL and help strengthen your bones, too.”
One limit to the study was that the age and menopause status of women involved in the weight loss trial wasn’t documented or used to evaluate the results.
That information is important because women tend to hold onto fat in their midsections after menopause and they lose more lean body mass as they age.
“There are some advantages to being a woman,” Young said, “but when it comes to weight loss, there’s an advantage to being a man.”