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The results suggest that training in reducing food desires or in reacting to food cues could be effective treatments to combat obesity, said Weller, who was not part of the research team.
Weller was a co-author of a recent paper in the journal NeuroImage that studied women's brains when participants were shown pictures of food. They found that obese women had a much stronger reaction than normal-weight women in brain regions related to reward.
Wang noted that behavioral studies have shown that women have a higher tendency than men to overeat when presented with tasty food or under emotional distress.
This may result from differences in sex hormones, he said, and further research is planned to see if that is the case.
Alice H. Lichtenstein, an expert in eating behavior at Tufts University, called Wang's research "very interesting ... I hope to see more like it."
But, she added, a lot of different factors figure in what and when we eat.
"As we learn more about the different factors that go into making that decision we'll be better at helping people regulate" their eating, said Lichtenstein, who was not part of the research team.
Obesity has been increasing and Wang also suggested that another part of the reason is changes in society.
While food choices were seasonal and more limited for our ancestors, choices today are wider and the food is so tempting, he said.
"You go to the buffet, you see the food, you want it," Wang went on. "Some people go to the buffet, they don't eat so much, some do. There is something different in the people."
The study was funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, and by the General Clinical Research Center of Stony Brook University.
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