Study Finds Bizarre Eating Differences in Men and Women

Sexy-Sensual: A model walks down the runway during the Victoria's Secret Fashion show, Wednesday, November 9, 2005, in New York. (Image credit: AP Photo/Jeff Christensen)

An offbeat study of human nature reveals a bizarre consumption difference between men and women.

Researchers surveyed people about their perceptions of their own bodies, then showed photos of "ideal body images" to these test subjects while the subjects were in a room with other members of the same gender. Then the subjects had the opportunity to munch on some pretzels.

The findings, announced today:

"Following exposure to ideal-body images, men who are insecure about their bodies eat more in front of other men, while women who are insecure about their bodies eat less in front of other women," said Kristen Harrison of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

The test involved 373 university students of average height and weight. The women saw pictures from Cosmopolitan, Glamour, Vogue, Shape and Elle. The men were shown images from Men’s Health, Men’s Fitness and Muscle & Fitness. In a bit of deceit often employed in research like this, they were all told the study was about evaluating the appeal of the magazines' layouts. Control subjects were not shown any photos.

Women who tended to think their bodies didn't measure up to the ideal ate, on average, one less pretzel than the other women in the study. Men with body-image problems ate three more pretzels than the other men.

Harrison suggests people eat when they're hungry, not based on what they see in the media.

The study is detailed in the December issue of the journal Communication Research.

Live Science Staff
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