Sex, Chocolate and the Brain or Why Women Prefer Chocolate

chocolate

After satiation with chocolate the tasting of chocolate activates different brain areas in men and women.

In men, chocolate satiation was associated with increased taste activation in the ventral striatum, insula, and orbitofrontal and medial orbitofrontal cortex and with decreased taste activation in somatosensory areas. Women showed increased taste activation in the precentral gyrus, superior temporal gyrus, and putamen and decreased taste activation in the hypothalamus and amygdala.

In contrast to men in women the amygdala plays an important role after satiation with chocolate. The amygdala is known to respond to both aversive and pleasant taste stimuli. It was found that amygdala activation in women decreased after chocolate satiation. Having had enough chocolate results in a decrease of activation of the amygdala in women. In men there was no effect of satiation on amygdala activation.

In women in response to satiation the taste activation in the hypothalamus decreased. This could reflect the decrease in hunger, ie, the decreased motivation to eat chocolate.

The sex differences we found suggest that satiation might work differently in men and women. There is supportive evidence for this from other fields that suggests that women are more
affected than men by the hedonic value of food, men not so much, it has been proven that men are much more affected by the need of an increase girth.

Now why is this important?
These results suggest that the sexes differ in their response to satiation. Therefore, sex differences are a covariate of interest in studies of the brain’s responses to tasting food and the regulation of food intake, if anyone has ever learnt how to improve sexual stamina they know chocolate plays a big role.

These results are also supported by a study that explored the preferences for comfort food across age and gender:

Males preferred warm, hearty, meal-related comfort foods (such as steak, casseroles, and soup), while females instead preferred comfort foods that were more snack related (such as chocolate and ice cream). In addition, younger people preferred more snack-related comfort foods compared to those over 55 years of age. Associations with guilty feelings underscored how these different preferences between males and females may extend to areas of application.

In a review of chocolate craving it is indicated that the hedonic appeal of chocolate (fat, sugar, texture and aroma) is likely to be a predominant factor in chocolate craving. This could explain, together with the neuroanatomy data why women prefer chocolate.

Alas chocolate is not an antidepressant.

ResearchBlogging.org
B WANSINK, M CHENEY, N CHAN (2003). Exploring comfort food preferences across age and gender1 Physiology & Behavior, 79 (4-5), 739-747 DOI: 10.1016/S0031-9384(03)00203-8
Paul AM Smeets,, Cees de Graaf,, Annette Stafleu,, Matthias JP van Osch,, Rutger AJ Nievelstein,, Jeroen van der Grond (2006). Effect of satiety on brain activation during chocolate tasting in men and women American Journal of Clinical Nutrition
Bruinsma, Kristen, Taren, Douglas L. (1999). Chocoalte: Food or Drug? Journal of the american dietetic association, 99 (10), 1249-1256 DOI: 10524390