Women may be more interested in romance after they’ve eaten, found a small study published in the journal Appetite, Medical Daily reported.
Researchers from the University of California, San Diego, found that women’s brains were more responsive to romantic cues after the women were fed compared to when they had fasted for eight hours.
The study included 20 young women of average height. Half of the group had dieted at least twice in their life, while the other half had never dieted. The women were asked to refrain from eating for eight hours before they went to the lab for an fMRI scan.
For the first set of scans, participants were shown romantic images, such as a couple holding hands, along with neutral images, like a bowling ball. Researchers observed similar levels of brain activation in response to all images.
Participants were then given 500 calories of a meal replacement drink before again undergoing the scan and being shown the same images. Study author Alice Ely said the women were more responsive to romantic cues on the second round of scans. She theorized that women were no longer “hangry”— hungry and angry— and thus able to pay more attention to things other than their hunger.
“Once we’re sated, then we can get on to better things,” she told Medical Daily.
Ely noted that more research is needed, as the group of women was small and relatively similar.
“It’s all very speculative, but it’s still very interesting and a sort of unexpected finding,” she told Medical Daily.
Traci Mann, a psychology professor at the University of Minnesota, who was not involved with the study, said the research’s hypothesis makes sense because the longer a person refrains from food, the more preoccupied he or she becomes with it. Therefore, it’s difficult “to be drawn away from thinking about food to thinking about other things,” she told Medical Daily.