The way to a woman’s heart is through her stomach, too, a new study suggests. Researchers’ at the University of California’s San Diego School of Medicine and Drexel University in Philadelphia found that women can get easier in a romantic mood when their stomach is full.
The recent study compared young women’s responsiveness to romantic cues when on dieting or not. Researchers learned that regardless of their dieting patterns, women’s brain responded quicker and in a more obvious manner to romantic photos on a full stomach than on an empty one.
The study’s results are at odds with past research that had shown people are more responsive to rewarding stimuli such as financial rewards, alcohol, or food when hungry than when full on food.
“This data suggests that eating may prime or sensitize young women to rewards beyond food,”
said Alice Ely, senior author of the recent study, which was published in Appetite.
Ms. Ely also noted that the new results confirm past links between fullness and appetite for sex.
The research team based their recent study on previous findings of a pilot study that had shown interesting links between dieting history and food cues in female college students. That study revealed that women often on a diet responded more significantly to tasty foods such as chocolate than those that had never dieted or were only recently on a diet.
That past research, which was published in Obesity, also revealed that young women who often engaged in dieting had a greater risk of weight gain than their peers with no dieting history. Scientists explained that the neural region associated with reward in the women’s brain was more sensitive after prolonged dieting than after no dieting at all.
In the wake of that earlier study, Ely and her fellow researchers concluded that women who diet a lot are significantly responsive to reward stimuli. So, they thought to test their theory by using romantic pictures on volunteers with a full or empty stomach.
Study participants’ reactions to the stimuli were recorded with help from magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). The research team found that both dieters and non-dieters were more prone to react to romantic stimulation after a hearty meal than on empty stomach.
But there were some significant differences between dieters and non-dieters in the way their brain reacted to romantic stimuli. In dieters, the brain activated at the stimuli in its superior frontal gyrus on an empty stomach and in the middle temporal gyrus on a full stomach.
Researchers noted that their findings were consistent with previous studies that had shown how the brain of female dieters responds to appealing food pictures and the studies that had found a link between food, sex, and drugs.
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