Are there any studies which show that men and women have different approaches to food? For example, MRIs that show activity in certain areas of the brain indicating that women have more difficulty suppressing their desire for foods, such as chocolate, than men?—Felix N. Chien, DO, Newport Beach, Calif.
There is some interesting research on this topic. In one recent study, Gene-Jack Wang and colleagues used positron emission tomography (PET) to study 23 normal-weight fasting men and women (10 men, 13 women) to evaluate brain activity (PNAS. 2009;106:1249-1254). The subjects were offered their favorite foods to eat and asked to voluntarily suppress their hunger. PET scanning showed that in men, but not women, cognitive inhibition resulted in decreased activation of limbic and paralimbic regions. These regions are known to be activated by food stimuli and correlate with hunger. The authors conclude that gender differences in brain activity may allow men to suppress their hunger more effectively than women and may partially explain gender-related differences in obesity. Similarly, previous research conducted at the Food and Brand Lab at University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and led by marketing professor Brian Wansink found that there are gender differences regarding comfort-food choices (Physiol Behav. 2003;79:739-747). This study found that when it comes to foods that bring them psychological comfort, men like hearty meals, while women look for snacks that require little or no preparation—including chocolate, ice cream, and candy.—Daniel G. Tobin, MD (133-7)