The Checkup: Why Men Make Better Dieters

By Adapted from voices.washpost.com/checkup
Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Why Men Make Better Dieters

Why do women seem to have a much harder time sticking to their diets than men do? A new study provides a provocative clue: Women's brains appear to have more of a mind of their own, so to speak, when food beckons.

Gene-Jack Wang of the Brookhaven National Laboratory and his colleagues quizzed 13 healthy women and 10 men about their favorite foods and then asked them to fast for at least 17 hours before coming in for a series of brain scans.

Before two of the scans, the researchers tempted the subjects with their favorite foods, whether it was lasagna, pizza, cinnamon buns, barbecue ribs or chocolate cake. The subjects could smell and even taste the food, but they couldn't eat it. Before one of the scans they were asked to try to suppress their impulse to indulge by trying to think about something else. They were also asked to describe how hungry they were and how strong their desire to eat was.

In both men and women, a variety of brain areas associated with regulating emotions, desire, conditioning, habit and motivation lit up when the subjects were tempted with their favorite foods. And both men and women described themselves as less hungry and less interested in eating when they tried to suppress their appetite.

But only the men showed a decrease in activity in the parts of the brain activated by food when they tried to tamp down their appetite, the researchers report in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The researchers are unsure why these sex differences exist, but it may be because of the difference in sex hormones such as estrogen.

-- Rob Stein

A Look at That Inaugural Lunch

Should a once-in-a-lifetime (or maybe twice-in-a-lifetime) meal such as last Tuesday's inaugural luncheon be held to high nutritional standards? Or does a president's swearing-in warrant a bit of indulgence?

One nutrition writer tallied the feast's per-person calorie count at 3,048, with 142 grams of fat.

The calorie count was indeed high -- at least half again what most of us should consume in a day.

But you can see how the planners of this menu tried to include healthful ingredients:

The stew featured lobster, scallops and black cod (albeit under a blanket of puff pastry). It's hard to argue with the array of winter vegetables: asparagus, carrots, Brussels sprouts and wax beans, prepared with a bit of butter and heart-healthy olive oil. There was a Bing cherry chutney to go with the roast pheasant and duck. A sweet potato dish had only a bit of butter and molasses for sweetening. And the cinnamon-apple sponge cake dessert . . . well, at least it's a fruit-based concoction, though the brioche-and-butter-filled bread topping seemed, well, over the top.

-- Jennifer Huget

kleindog wrote:

I'd like to see it be more local and seasonal, in keeping with green sensibilities.

bond2millonpost wrote:

And what about whole grains, fresh fruits in season, nuts in season, nut butters, natural fruits? Fruits don't have to be in a pie! For crying out laugh! Move your menu planning in the green zone. We don't need another fat generation.

Salmonella in Snack Crackers

Salmonella's presence has been confirmed in at least one package of crackers. (That after peanut butter sold in big containers to hospitals, schools and other institutions was implicated in an outbreak that has claimed six lives.)

The possible contamination of processed, packaged snacks adds a new dimension to the salmonella scene. We've come to accept that fresh produce, raw eggs, chicken, ground beef, pet food and even peanut butter itself may carry salmonella bacteria. But a packet of crackers? They've seemed so safe. It's unsettling.

-- Jennifer Huget

ComfortablyDumb wrote:

Why would the revelation that a packet of peanut-butter sandwich crackers may contain salmonella be "unsettling" if we've already come to accept that peanut butter may contain salmonella? Do people think the cracker-packet peanut butter is fake peanut butter? That the peanut butter preparation guidelines are stricter for when it's not sold in jar form?


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