Sex differences in human adipose tissues - The biology of pear shape

Kalypso Karastergiou, Steven R. Smith, Andrew S. Greenberg, Susan K. Fried

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

592 Scopus citations


Women have more body fat than men, but in contrast to the deleterious metabolic consequences of the central obesity typical of men, the pear-shaped body fat distribution of many women is associated with lower cardiometabolic risk. To understand the mechanisms regulating adiposity and adipose tissue distribution in men and women, significant research attention has focused on comparing adipocyte morphological and metabolic properties, as well as the capacity of preadipocytes derived from different depots for proliferation and differentiation. Available evidence points to possible intrinsic, cell autonomous differences in preadipocytes and adipocytes, as well as modulatory roles for sex steroids, the microenvironment within each adipose tissue, and developmental factors. Gluteal-femoral adipose tissues of women may simply provide a safe lipid reservoir for excess energy, or they may directly regulate systemic metabolism via release of metabolic products or adipokines. We provide a brief overview of the relationship of fat distribution to metabolic health in men and women, and then focus on mechanisms underlying sex differences in adipose tissue biology.

Original languageEnglish
Article number13
JournalBiology of Sex Differences
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Adipocyte
  • Fat distribution
  • Fatty acid uptake
  • Lipolysis


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