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  • Writer's pictureKatherine Sims

Stress Related Food Choices Split Between Men and Women

Stress affects everyone differently. It also affects food choices but peculiarly, it affects men and women differently. In a 2007 study in Appetite (1), researchers gave two groups of men two anagrams, one solvable (non-stress group), the other unsolvable (stress group). The men were also given access to two healthy snacks (grapes and peanuts) and two unhealthy snacks (potato chips and M&M candies) while they were solving their anagrams. The men in the non-stress group ate significantly more unhealthy snacks than the stress group. Conversely, in a 2009 study in Appetite (2), high-stressed (self-reported) women preferred sweet, high fat food while low-stressed (self-reported) women preferred low-fat, healthy foods.

But stress doesn't only affect food choices, it has also been shown to affect quantities of food eaten. In a 2006 Physiology & Behavior study found that women who are stressed self-report overeating and undereating in response. Those women who reported overeating (71%) were restrained eaters (i.e. dieters) while those who reported undereating or do not change the amount they eat were not restrained. A 2021 review in Frontiers in Neuroendocrinology (3) showed similar results for women. Surprisingly, men overall did not seem to overeat in response to stress.

So stress adversely affects women's food choices and quantities more than men. Learn more in our membership about stress, food choices, and how they affect your weight and health.


(1) DOI: 10.1016/j.appet.2007.06.013

(2) DOI: 10.1016/j.appet.2008.12.006

(3) DOI: 10.1016/j.yfrne.2021.100941

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