The findings of a new study published in Appetite suggest that romantic feelings are stronger among women after they have eaten properly than when they are not fully sated. They are more likely to respond to romantic images on a full tummy, it is being suggested.

As a part of the study, researchers from the University of California, San Diego put 20 women into an MRI machine after they had not eaten for eight hours. they were then shown pictures of heterosexual couples holding hands, embracing, etc and also neutral images like stapler, bowling ball, cars, etc.

woman eating

Later, the participants were given a high-calorie meal and high-protein nutritional shake before being scanned again. The researchers led by Alice Ely, a postdoctoral research fellow at UC San Diego School of Medicine’s Eating Disorders Center for Treatment and Research, saw a lot more brain activity on seeing the romantic images among women who had enough to eat.

The participants were also asked if they had dieted earlier. Much to the surprise of the authors of the study, those who had gone for dieting earlier responded more to romantic images than others, especially in areas of the brain linked to rewards.

“The dieters were more responsive than non-dieters when full in a brain region that’s been linked to perceived attractiveness, and given that they are a more weight-gain- prone population, it suggests that their sensitivity to reward generalizes beyond just food,” Ely told Quartz.

One of the reasons, believes Ely, could be that a feeling of fullness leads to increased sensitivity to rewards like sex.

“They were more responsive when fed,” Ely said in a statement from UC San Diego. “This data suggests that eating may prime or sensitize young women to rewards beyond food. It also supports a shared neurocircuitry for food and sex.”

Getting connected to sexual desire however requires more work, she underlines.

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