Do obese women have “food learning impairment?”
Women who are obese may have a learning deficit when it comes to eating habits, concludes a new study from Yale School of Medicine.
Researchers recruited 135 men and women, who were either considered to be obese or at a healthy weight. The adults took part in two phases of tests that involved colored cards with pictures of rewards in the form of food or money. In the first test, the reward cards followed a particular colored card and in the second test, the order of the cards was changed. The participants were asked to learn the cards and predict the likelihood of a reward card appearing.
After the tests were performed, the researchers found that the obese women performed worse than did the normal-weight individuals or obese men when it came to making predictions of the cards with pictures of food. However, the obese women were generally able to make predictions as accurately as the other groups of people when the reward card was money. The difference in performance held true after researchers accounted for other factors.
The results of the study, published in Current Biology, suggest that obese women may have a flawed association between food and environmental cues—such as concerns about food and negative body image—which may make it more difficult for them to change eating patterns. Researchers said that their findings suggest that obese women wanting to alter their eating habits may be more successful if they receive help changing their associations with food, rather than trying to change their behavior with food alone.