If your answer was ‘yes,’ chances are you’re well-acquainted with the concept of stress eating. But here’s some intriguing info out of the Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health in Melbourne: women are more likely than men to reach for junk food when experiencing negative emotions.
In a series of experiments on lab mice, researchers found that females displayed binge eating behaviour when under emotional stress. They put this down to the female brain being more susceptible to triggers that lead to overeating.
“We know emotional eating occurs in both sexes, but is over-represented in females, I just didn't expect to see such a striking recapitulation of what you see in humans. It was a bit surprising,” Dr Robyn Brown of the Florey Institute told the Sydney Morning Herald. She hopes the findings will lead to advances in the treatment of overeating in humans and is currently working on identifying which part of the brain is responsible for this.
“We are now pursuing this important health area with further research looking at what’s happening in the brain during stress-induced binge eating and exactly what causes this behaviour. We do know that in the human literature and even anecdotally that women suffer from emotional eating more than men but in terms of understanding why that's happening, we haven't had very good animal models to look at this.”
Dr Brown said her work is helping to "reduce the stigma around the idea that people who overeat are just weak and can't control themselves. It says, well, actually that person has a brain disease and it might encourage them to seek help earlier."