Way to a woman’s heart is through her stomach!
The famous saying of ‘way to man’s heart is through his stomach’ is true in case of women as well, researchers have suggested through a new study that looked into how women responded to romantic cues while hungry versus satiated.
According to researchers at Drexel University, women’s brains respond more to romantic cues on a full stomach than an empty one. The study, published in the journal Appetite, explored brain circuitry in hungry versus satiated states among women who were past-dieters and those who had never dieted.
First author Alice Ely, PhD, revealed that in their study, young women both with and without a history of dieting had greater brain activation in response to romantic pictures in reward-related neural regions after having eaten than when hungry. These results, Ely says, are contrary to several previous studies, which showed that people typically demonstrate greater sensitivity to rewarding stimuli when hungry. Such stimuli may include things like food, money and drugs.
“This data suggests that eating may prime or sensitize young women to rewards beyond food. It also supports a shared neurocircuitry for food and sex”, she added.
The research was based on a small pilot study wherein they investigated how the brain changes in response to food cues. Specifically, the researchers looked at whether the brain’s reward response to food differed significantly in women at risk for future obesity (historical dieters) versus those who had never dieted. All of the study participants were young, college-age women of normal weight.
In that study, published in Obesity in 2014, the researchers found that the brains of women with a history of dieting responded more dramatically to positive food cues when fed as compared to women who had never dieted or who were currently dieting.
“In the fed state, historical dieters had a greater reaction in the reward regions than the other two groups to highly palatable food cues versus neutral or moderately palatable cues,” she said. Highly palatable cues included foods like chocolate cake; neutral cues were things like carrots.
Ely said the data suggests historical dieters, who longitudinal studies have shown are more at risk for weight gain, may be predisposed by their brain reward circuitry to desire food more than people who have not dieted.
“Based on this study, we hypothesized that historical dieters are differentially sensitive – after eating – to rewards in general, so we tested this perception by comparing the same groups’ brain activation when viewing romantic pictures compared to neutral stimuli in a fasted and fed state,” she said. Testing was done using MRI imaging.
While both groups’ reward centers responded more to romantic cues when fed, the historical dieters’ neural activity noticeably differed from the non-dieters in one brain region that had also turned up in the earlier food studies.
“The pattern of response was similar to historical dieter’s activation when viewing highly palatable food cues, and is consistent with research showing overlapping brain-based responses to sex, drugs and food,” said Ely.