A study at the Michigan State University finds out that female rats are much more likely to binge eat than male rats, and believe that it may have implications for humans. Binge eating is one of the core symptoms of most eating disorders, including bulimia nervosa and the binge/purge subtype of anorexia nervosa. Females are four to 10 times more likely than males to have an eating disorder.
The lead author and professor of psychology, Kelly Klump, said that most theories of why eating disorders are so much more prevalent in females than males focus on the increased cultural and psychological pressure that girls and women face. This study suggests that biological factors likely contribute as well, since female rats do not experience the psychosocial pressures that humans do, such as pressures to be thin.
The researchers ran a feeding experiment with 30 female and 30 male rats over a two-week period, replacing the rodents' food pellets periodically with vanilla frosting. The rate of binge eating "proneness" (i.e., the tendency to consume the highest amount of frosting across all feeding tests) was found to be six times higher in female as compared to male rats.
The research suggests there is probably a biological difference between males and females that we need to explore to understand risk factors and mechanisms. The detailed study findings were published online in the International Journal of Eating Disorders.
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