Women are often encouraged to cook for their potential mate, because we’ve all been told time and time again that “the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.” However, according to a new study, it turns out that women might react in a similar way, being a lot more responsive to romantic cues if their stomach has already been taken care of.
In order to reach this conclusion, researchers from the US Drexel University analyzed the way the brain reacts when women are hungry versus satiated, studying women who had dieted before and women who haven’t.
Senior author of the study Alice Ely, who led the research as part of her doctoral degree, explains that having a history of dieting made no difference in this aspect, as both types of young women had higher brain activation when showed romantic pictures if they had eaten before. Their reward-related neural regions were not so thrilled if they went through the experiment with an empty stomach.
Dr. Ely is now a contributing postdoctoral researcher at the Eating Disorders Center for Treatment and Research, part of the University of California. She said she was surprised to find the results were contrary to previous studies, which demonstrated that hungry men and women alike exhibit greater sensitivity to gratifying stimuli, such as finance, food, and drugs.
This finding is part of a larger pilot study that Ely and her Drexel colleagues have conducted on the brain responses to food cues. Researchers were particularly interested if there was a significant difference in the brain’s reward response to food in women with history of dieting – and higher risk of obesity – compared with those who had never dieted.
The study’s conclusions are based on the reactions of young, college-age women of normal weight. Published in 2014, the research points to the fact that women with history of dieting had a stronger brain response to food cues if they were fed than young women currently dieting or with no dieting habits.
Based on that study, the new research, published in the journal Appetite, had the team hypothesizing that brain responses in these two groups might also be different in particular situations, such as when showed romantic pictures in a hungry and fed state.
MRI imagining was used to establish accurate results, which suggested that, even though both groups had stronger responses to romantic cues in a satiated state, women with history of dieting were still ahead of the other group when it came to the degree of neural activity.
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