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Will vanilla frosting make a rat's behind look big?

Kelly Klump
Michigan State University

Let's say you're a rat and someone gives you the option of eating vanilla frosting instead of boring old rat food.
If you're a female rat, you're probably going to eat that frosting -- six times likely more than males.

It's no secret that eating disorders are more prevalent among women than men, but new research from Michigan State University finds that might be caused by biology -- not just emotions or social pressure. "These rats, obviously, are not concerned about their body weight," says MSU Professor of Psychology Kelly Klump. "They don't care if their butt's too big. So sex differences in the rates of binge eating in these rats can't be due to some of the cultural and psychosocial risk factors that we know contribute to binge eating in humans."

Klump says there are still many questions, including whether high-fat, high-sugar processed foods can contribute to binge eating.

"There's something about the female body, the female brain, that makes the female like and/or want these high-fat, high-sugar foods more than males. Once they have this high-fat, high-sugar food, it's more difficult for them to stop."

Klump says males tend to go for protein-rich foods instead.

The research could help develop therapies to treat eating disorders.

More details: http://msutoday.msu.edu/news/2013/the-biology-behind-binge-eating/