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A difference in brain wiring may explain why women face a tougher struggle than men in resisting food cravings.

A recent study at the Brookhaven National Laboratory in Upton, N.Y., questioned 23 healthy male and female subjects about their favorite foods, ranking their desire from 1 to 10. The subjects then fasted for 17 hours before being presented with their most craving-provoking dishes.

Using PET scans, the research team observed that the sight, smell and taste of tempting foods stimulated brain activity in all the subjects — particularly in the orbital frontal cortex, a region tasked with self-control. And, predictably, when asked to ignore the food, all of the volunteers reported decreased feelings of hunger. But in women, the signaling activity in the parts of the brain that control emotional cravings remained far more robust than in the brains of male subjects. The researchers speculate that this may help explain why women are more likely to suffer from both obesity and eating disorders.

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