Different men and women even at the table: gender affects food tastes

Due to hormones, he prefers more fatty foods and snacks at night, while she is more attracted to carbohydrates and eats more fruit and vegetables

Men and women are also different at the table, with different tastes due to the effect of sex hormones. She eats more fruits and vegetables, but also more carbohydrates. He is more attracted to fatty foods and prone to ‘busted’ meal times and late night snacking. This was revealed by a review, currently being published, conducted by the Department of Endocrinology of the Federico II University of Naples on 43 studies over the last 10 years. According to the results, food preferences depend on biological sex and age rather than on where we live and cultural factors.

In particular, in a recent study published in Nutrition & Food Science by the Department of Human Sciences and Promotion of the Quality of Life of the Telematic University St. Raphael of Rome, the eating behaviors of 2,021 adults, including 1,276 women, were evaluated using a questionnaire consisting of 12 questions on eating habits, 17 on food tastes and 4 on healthy eating. The results showed that women tend to eat more carbohydrates, fruits and vegetables and less fat than men, who, on the other hand, tend to eat more foods high in fat and salt.

The association between gender differences in nutrition and sex hormones is recent and needs to be explored and deepened with further studies – comments Annamaria Colao, president of Sie and full professor of Endocrinology at the Federico II University of Naples – but there is a growing awareness that food preferences in the western world are influenced more by the biological components linked to sex, hormonal balance and physiological changes of the reproductive state ( menstrual cycle and menopause), and from the social ones linked to the roles culturally attributed to male and female identity. The review by the Federico II research group – he explains – suggests that estrogens act on the hypothalamic nuclei, which oversee the control of hunger and satiety, activating the cannabinoid system which stimulates appetite and induces in women the desire for foods rich in carbohydrates. Men, on the other hand, are more likely to eat foods rich in fat because testosterone activates another system which is dopamine, a brain neurotransmitter that generates a greater feeling of strength and aggression”.

Gender equality at the table as regards food choices is still far away – underlines Colao – and only women take advantage of it, at least until menopause when with the drop in estrogen the differences are reduced and they tend to have preferences more similar to men”. Women and men differ not only in the qualitative choices of food but also in the moment in which they take it, with different metabolic repercussions: males have a propensity to concentrate food consumption in the evening hours, women instead more in the first half of the day.

AND when you eat it is just as important as what you eat. “To maintain a normal weight, it is important to synchronize the time when we take meals with our internal timer, concentrating the consumption of food in the first part of the day when cortisol levels are higher and the daily energy requirement is greater”, underlines Colao. According to the review, “47% of women concentrate their food consumption in the first part of the day against 33% of men. For the evening instead it is 46% of women against 63% of men. The former therefore tend to support the biological clock, with beneficial effects for maintaining a normal weight”.

Men, on the other hand, “are ‘late eaters’, i.e. nocturnal eaters when cortisol levels are lower. This entails worse metabolic consequences because they are ‘out of phase’ with the biological timetable and a greater risk of developing obesity – warns the expert – also because they are more inclined than women to wake up to consume snacks at night. It is therefore not decisive if you have breakfast at 6 rather than 9 and if you have lunch at 12 or 14, the important thing is that most of the daily caloric requirement is consumed within the first part of the day, i.e. generally within 15 ”, says Colao.