Studies show women have harder time combating hunger

By Molly Kearney
February 19, 2009

Women have a harder time suppressing hunger than men, according to a new study done by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Brookhaven National Laboratory released on Jan. 19.

The study shows that men, not women, are able to control their brain’s response to their favorite foods. These studies corresponded with behavioral research that found women have a higher tendency to overeat than men.

In this simple study both men and women were asked their favorite foods and then were told to fast.

The next day each person was presented with their favorite foods, while having their brain scanned for reactions.

The participants were also taught a way of thinking that would allow them to suppress thoughts of eating and hunger.

Women were found to overeat when presented with appetizing food or under emotional distress.

These findings may be contributed to differences in appetite suppression and to gender differences in eating disorders. It is also believed to be linked to gender differences in estrogen and related hormones.

Karen McFee, biology adjunct professor, has worked clinically with both men and women.

“Women get it in their heads from a young age what foods are good and what are bad. When they reach the age that their weight needs to be controlled they are depriving themselves, which leads to eating on impulse,” McFee said.

McFee said that women have more connections between the brain and emotions. That is why they make different eating decisions than men. She went on to explain that there were clinical studies done that shows emotions are more likely to take hold when one is eating.

McFee, in all of her work, feels that in order to make a change, women and men need to learn about nutrition and become motivated.

“Education does not promote action,” McFee said.

There are always several ways of looking at eating habits. McFee has the view of someone who has worked in the world of health.

Hope Bell, senior marketing major, works at Total Nutrition of Wayne and sees women dealing with their weight all of the time.

Bell has several different perspectives on this issue. She is able to see this idea in herself, in women she meets at her job and what she has learned from working in the world of nutrition and health.

Bell feels that everything dealing with weight and eating is situational.

“I feel that men and women need the same amount of food to live. It also depends on weight and size, but I think women feel they are not supposed to eat as much as men because of stereotypes and the fear of gaining weight,” Bell said.

When it comes to herself, Bell said, “I have a hard time controlling cravings especially on the weekends. I usually eat pretty healthy and exercise during the week but often go overboard on the weekends with Chinese and pizza take out.”

Even someone who is as knowledgeable as Bell has a hard time. No one is strong enough to resist how they eat, which all stems back to McFee’s claim that women and their emotions are connected when it comes to food.

Maddie Iacobucci, sophomore communication major, has a different view on the situation as a whole.

“I think it depends on the person and their personality. Women may overeat, or even under eat, during stressful or emotional times, but I do not think that, generally, women as a whole have a harder time suppressing hunger,” Iacobucci said. She believes this situation depends on the woman and how she views weight and the world.

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Molly Kearney

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