The escalating prevalence of individuals becoming overweight and obese is a rapidly rising global health problem, placing an enormous burden on health and economic systems worldwide. Whilst obesity has well described lifestyle drivers, there is also a significant and poorly understood component that is regulated by genetics. Furthermore, there is clear evidence for sexual dimorphism in obesity, where overall risk, degree, subtype and potential complications arising from obesity all differ between males and females. The molecular mechanisms that dictate these sex differences remain mostly uncharacterised. Many studies have demonstrated that this dimorphism is unable to be solely explained by changes in hormones and their nuclear receptors alone, and instead manifests from coordinated and highly regulated gene networks, both during development and throughout life. As we acquire more knowledge in this area from approaches such as large-scale genomic association studies, the more we appreciate the true complexity and heterogeneity of obesity. Nevertheless, over the past two decades, researchers have made enormous progress in this field, and some consistent and robust mechanisms continue to be established. In this review, we will discuss some of the proposed mechanisms underlying sexual dimorphism in obesity, and discuss some of the key regulators that influence this phenomenon.

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