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New research identifies why men and women may differ in food choices

The physiological response of the vagus nerve can dictate taste and digestive reactions to food. A study suggests that gender is a major factor in how the nerve functions.

PITTSBURGH, Pa. The National Institute of Nutrition, Canada, recently reported that men and women see nutrition differently. For example, nearly three quarters of women now consider nutrition to be extremely or very important, compared with little over half of men. Forty-four percent of women, versus 33 percent of men, describe their eating habits as excellent or very good. Women express more concern than men about specific nutrition issues, such as calcium (80 percent vs. 54 percent) and iron (65 percent vs. 41 percent), as well as fat (87 percent vs. 69 percent). Forty percent of women and 25 percent of men consider themselves to be extremely or very knowledgeable about nutrition.

Maybe the survey is correct -- women probably eat more nutritious foods in a healthier manner. But they might not be able to attribute their superior dietary habits to willpower. New research from the University of Pennsylvania now claims that physiology -- expressed through gender differences in the vagus nerves gastric and hormonal responses to food ingestion -- might have a strong influence in women preferring a Caesar salad to a cheeseburger.

Background and Study
The vagus is a nerve that passes from the brain to the pharynx, larynx, trachea, lungs, heart, pancreas, liver, and gastrointestinal tract as far as the left colic (splenic) flexure. This nerve is essential to digestive and is activated at the onset of, and during food ingestion.

One study examined how stimulation of the vagus nerve contributed to emptying of the stomach in lean men and women. The activity of the vagus nerve was greater in men compared to women. In another study, secretion of hormones under the influence of vagal innervation were studied. The release of the hormones were gre
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Contact: Donna Krupa
krupaco1@aol.com
703-967-2751
American Physiological Society
18-Oct-2001


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