Ever wonder why women seem to like sweets more than men? According to a new study, when faced with their favorite foods, men can control their food cravings more than women. Men are also able to suppress their food hunger better than women. These discoveries may help explain the higher obesity rate for females.
Researchers trying to understand the brain’s mechanisms for controlling food intake were surprised at the difference between the sexes in brain response. Gene-Jack Wang of Brookhaven National Laboratory and colleagues were trying to figure out why some people overeat and gain weight while others don’t.
They performed brain scans on women and men who had fasted overnight, to determine how their brains responded to the sight of their favorite foods.
On the first day of scanning, the subjects were shown their favorite foods. They were asked to observe, smell, taste and react to the food, but not eat it. On another day, they were asked to inhibit their desire for food prior to being shown the food. The last scanning was a control scan with no food.
The subjects were asked to describe their hunger feelings and to rate the food when it had been presented to them. In both men and women, areas in the brain associated with emotional regulation showed more activity when tempted with the foods compared to the control scan. When giving their responses to food, men showed a lower activity in the brain regions.
The results showed that although the women said they were less hungry when trying to reduce their response to the food, their brains were still highly active in the regions that control the drive to eat. In contrast, men’s brain activity decreased along with their reports of hunger during the scan when they were asked to keep their hunger under control.
Hormones may play a role
Researchers suggest part of the cause may be hormonal differences in women and men. Because the traditional role of the female is to provide nutrition to children, the female brain may be hard-wired to eat when foods are available. Researchers say that more exploration of hormones and weight control needs to be done.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 35.3 percent of American women and 33.3 percent of men in America are considered obese.
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