Why do single women consume more sweets?

Published by Adrien - 29 days ago - Other Languages: FR, DE, ES, PT
Source: JAMA Network Open

Research conducted by UCLA Health reveals that single women show increased brain activity in areas associated with food cravings, particularly when looking at images of high-calorie foods like sweets. These cravings are connected to unhealthy eating habits and fragile mental health.

Arpana Gupta, Ph.D., a researcher at the UCLA Goodman-Luskin Microbiome Center, is focused on the harmful effects of loneliness, exacerbated by post-COVID-19 pandemic remote work. She investigates how social isolation affects eating habits and mental health, considering that obesity is often linked to depression and anxiety, and that overeating (the sensation of exaggerated hunger) is a coping mechanism for loneliness.


The research team surveyed 93 women about their support network and feelings of loneliness, and then classified them into two groups based on their perceived level of social isolation. The results show that women with strong social isolation generally had a higher fat mass, poorer diet quality, more cravings, reward-based eating behaviors, uncontrolled consumption, as well as increased levels of anxiety and depression.

MRI scans recorded the brain activity of the participants while showing them images of sweet and salty foods compared to neutral images. Women feeling lonely exhibited increased activity in the brain regions related to sweet cravings and reduced activity in the areas controlling eating behaviors.

The researchers conclude that loneliness affects not only emotions but also eating behaviors, increasing cravings for unhealthy foods and exacerbating negative mental symptoms. Comprehensive mind-body interventions could help break this vicious cycle by encouraging healthy eating choices and fostering self-compassion.

Future research by Gupta will focus on other biological markers related to loneliness, such as metabolites, the microbiome, and inflammatory markers.
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