Men eat more when they dine with women, study finds

There's now a scientific explanation why men eat more in front of women--and it may not be why you think.

According to a new study from Cornell University’s Food and Brand Lab published in the medical journal “Evolutionary Psychological Science,” they are actually trying to impress females--not turn them off.

Cornell scientists surveyed 105 men and women, aged 18 to 81, at an all-you-can-eat Italian buffet over a two week period. The study was conducted to see if dining companions of different genders have an effect on how much people eat.

“Eating lightly among women has been well-studied in the past -- the idea is that women tend to eat less in the company of men," lead study author Kevin Kniffin told CBS News. "Our article looks at the opposite question and finds evidence that men tend to 'eat heavily' in the company of women."

The research team found that men who ate with at least one woman consumed significantly more food— 92 percent more pizza (or about 1.5 slices) and 86 percent more salad.

Women who ate with men reported feeling that they were rushed through their meal and said they felt like the overate. But after the research team measured food samples, female diners basically ate the same amount of food regardless of with whom they dined.

The study did not examine what factors may have influenced why men ate so much more around women but the researchers have a theory based on evolutionary psychology.

"The evolutionary psychology view that we test through the new study relies on an understanding that people have an evolved tendency to 'show off' in front of others, whether it's for dominance and/or to show a kind of attractiveness," Kniffin said. "For example, there is prior work that looks at men eating spicy food as a way to 'show off,' and our new article looks at actual volume of food consumed -- both healthy and unhealthy food -- as a way to 'show off.'"

Kniffin also said that the desire to show off is seen in eating competitions which have mostly male participants.

Simply put, when men are in the company of women, they are more likely to show off.