Difference in brain activity when tempted with favorite foods
Ever wonder why many women like sweets more than men? A new study says that men can control their food cravings more than women.
Researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Brookhaven National Laboratory found that men were able to control their brain’s response to favorite foods. They say that this may explain why obesity rates are higher in women than men, and also why it’s generally harder for women to lose weight.
“Our findings may help us understand the neurobiological mechanisms underlying the ability to control food intake, and suggest new pharmacological methods or other interventions to help people regulate eating behavior and maintain a healthy weight,” said Gene-Jack Wang, lead author on the study. “The surprising finding of a difference between genders in the ability to inhibit the brain’s response to food and hunger will certainly merit further study.”
Scientists monitored brain activity in 13 female and 10 male subjects by using positron emission tomography (PET) scanning.
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.
“Even though the women said they were less hungry when trying to inhibit their response to the food, their brains were still firing away in the regions that control the drive to eat,” Wang said. “In contrast, men’s brain activity decreased along with their self-reports of hunger during the scan when they were asked to keep their hunger in check.”
“This may indicate a difference between the genders in the ability to perceive and respond to internal body signals,” Wang said.
Researchers say that more exploration needs to be done because other factors like hormones may play a part in the results.
This study is published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Source and Image: Brookhaven National Laboratory News Release