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Today in Health & Wellness
GENDER CONCERNS

The S Factor

"Sexual differences and body fat"
By: Jose Maria M. Villarama IIThe S Factor

Although Vicky and Gerry are fraternal (non-identical) twins, their parents always exerted time and effort to make them look alike when they were growing up. From their bedroom décor themes to their outfits, toys, and school accessories, everything matched, much to the growing pair’s disapproval and embarrassment.

But their parents’ idea of fun became short-lived when the twins reached adolescence. Aside from the evident differences in sex and appearance, as well as the siblings’ growing divergence in preference and interest, Vicky started to gain weight more easily than Gerry, despite being on the same diet. This puzzled their parents who tried to engage Vicky in sports and more physical activity. No matter what their parents did or how much they tried, however, Gerry grew up to be the young, leaner man that he now is, while Vicky developed into the more voluptuous woman that she has come to be known, this time, much to the dismay of their parents.

Come to think of it, there is no logical reason why Vicky could and should have gained more weight than Gerry, given the same circumstances they were exposed to. If the main argument is that fat is synthesized in the body for energy storage, then Vicky and Gerry should still be of the same size and weight. Sexual differences, however, dictate that women and men further differentiate as soon as they reach puberty. It is at this time when the body more palpably and deliberately prepares itself for sexual reproduction. Aside from the changes that are happening in the reproductive system, the development of secondary sexual characteristics, such as hair growth, increased muscle mass, as well as changes in the waist-to-hip ratio, come into play.

Because of changes in the sex hormones estrogen and testosterone, weight and fat distribution also manifest differently in males and females. In general, as puberty progresses, females rake in a higher body fat percentage, which they need in anticipation of energy-expending child-bearing, than their male counterparts. For women, fat comprises a maximum of 20 percent of their total body weight, while for men, it is about 15 percent. 

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