Women have higher rates of obesity and eating disorders thanmen do, and now scientists think they know why. New studiesof brain scans show that different parts of men’s andwomen’s brains react to hunger, as well as to feeling full.

Angelo Del Parigi, of the National Institute of Diabetes andDigestive and Kidney Diseases, used PET scans to look at thebrains of 22 men and 22 women. A PET scan identifies areaswhere there are surges in blood flow that reflect brainactivity. Unlike X-rays, changes in the brain can beobserved on a PET scan while they are happening. Thescientists performed the scans after the participantsfinished a 36-hour fast and again after they drank a liquidmeal.

The scans found significant differences between the sexes.When they?re hungry, men have more activity than women inthe paralimbic region of the brain, an area involved inprocessing emotion. When full, women had more activity thanmen did in the occipital cortex, the seat of vision, and menhad more activity than women did in an area of theprefrontal cortex associated with feelings of satisfaction.

This means that men may feel more rewarded by eating thanwomen do. Advertisers may have learned this from experience,since most ads for fast food and soft drinks show men beingsatisfied with what they?re eating.

The brain patterns show that men and women are different inhow they think and feel about what they eat rather than inthe way they physically process food compounds. Yijun Liu,of the University of Florida, says, “This is a veryimportant finding for the future study of obesity.”

We are what we eat, but what are we eating? Find out from?Eating in the Dark? by Kathleen Hart,click here.

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