While many older women love to say that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, a new study has proven that the way to a woman’s heart is also through her stomach.
A group of researchers from the San Diego School of Medicine teamed up with colleagues from Drexel University to investigate “reward response to romantic cues in individuals with a history of dieting versus nondieter”, and concluded that women become more responsive to romantic cues after having a good meal.
Alice Ely, postdoctoral research fellow from the San Diego School of Medicine and first author on the study, offered a statement saying that she and her colleagues noticed that both young women with a history of dieting and young women 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”.
She mentioned that previous studies have indicated that people typically have a greater sensitivity to rewarding stimuli (money, food, drugs) when they’re feeling hungry. But she added that these findings were proven to be untrue over the course of the new study.
Ely and her colleagues focused only on women and said that participants were more responsive after consuming a meal. The first author informed that the data gathered from these participants suggests that “eating may prime or sensitize young women to rewards beyond food” and that it reinforces the concept of a shared neurocircuitry between sex and food.
Ely also revealed that the new study was inspired by a previous study that she conducted with the help of the same team. During that earlier project, the researchers looked at college-age women and tried to find our how various food cues affected the brains of historical dieters vs. how they affected the brains of non-dieters.
The team showed that women who had the habit of dieting had much more dramatic responses to chocolate cake and other positive foods, compared to women who did not have the habit of dieting as well as women who were on a diet during the time that the study was being conducted.
Looking back at their previous study, the researchers wondered whether or not there’s a possibility that historical dieters respond differently to romantic cues, compared to non-dieters.
To investigate this question, they connected the subjects’ brains to magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machines and monitored their brain activity while they looked at a set of romantic images and a set of neutral images.
However both groups (historical dieters and non-dieters) had the same brain response – they felt less romantic on an empty stomach, and more romantic on a full stomach.
It’s worth mentioning that there was one difference between the two groups. Historical dieters showed a stronger response in their superior frontal gyrus when they were hungry, and a stronger response in their middle temporal gyrus once they had eaten. This is also the response that they had when seeing images of positive foods in the earlier study.
The study was published recently, in the journal Appetite.
Image Source: glamour.com