Is men’s health at steak? New mice research published in the journal Cell Reports found a male’s brain responds significantly different to foods with high-fat compared to a female’s brain, which is to say they respond worse than females.

"Our findings, for the first time, suggest that males and females respond to high-fat diets differently," Deborah Clegg, lead study author of the Cedar-Sinai Diabetes and Obesity Research Institute in Los Angeles, said in a press release. "The data would suggest that is probably 'OK' for females to occasionally have a high-fat meal [like an occasional hamburger], where it is not recommended for males. The way we treat patients and provide dietary and nutritional advice should be altered.”

This difference, it turns out, is literally in a mouse’s head. Clegg and her team found that brain inflammation is associated with overeating, imbalanced blood sugar, and otherwise inflamed fatty tissue — all of which is triggered at a greater rate in males than females after following a high-fat diet for a short time. When male mice brains are inflamed, they also experience reduced cardiac function; something researchers speculate has to do with a difference in estrogen and estrogen receptors.

Interestingly enough, when male mouse brains were manipulated to have the same fatty acid profile of a female, they weren’t at the same risk. "We have always had 'one size fits all' with respect to our nutritional information and our pharmaceutical approach," Clegg said. "Our data begin to suggest that sex should be factored in, and men should be more closely monitored for fat intake and inflammation than women."

It’s not the first time mice have been chosen to make an example out of the Western diet. Prior research found mice fed a high-fructose (sugar), high-fat Western diet experienced more liver damage than when they’re just fed a high-fat diet, while mice predisposed to pancreatic cancer were more obese and insulin resistant when maintaining a corn oil-based diet. Corn oil is mostly made up of polyunsaturated (good) fat, but it has a higher percentage of saturated (bad) fat than olive oil.

Some of these effects have been detected in humans, too. One study showed diets high in saturated fat increased risk for certain types of breast cancer, and the American Heart Association reported fatty foods spikes cholesterol. The AHA added most baked goods and fried foods contain a high amount of bad-for-you fat. Le sigh.

So ladies, if you have a hankering for a hamburger, go for it. But men might want to consider patties alternatively made from beans, legumes, even salmon. With the right recipe, beef buffs will hardly miss the meat.

Source: Morselli et al. Hypothalamic PGC-1alpha Protects Against High Fat Diet Exposure by Regulating ERalpha. Cell Reports. 2014.