Many women may be afraid of gaining weight, says BYU study

by | Apr. 15, 2010

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Whether they know it or not, most young women are afraid of getting fat, according to a new BYU study. The study found that the brains of healthy, well-adjusted women with no history of eating disorders were activated in a similar way to bulimics when shown pictures of overweight women.

"They'll tell you explicitly, 'I don't care. It's no big deal to me if I were to become overweight,' " said Mark Allen, a BYU neuroscientist and study author. "But what their brains are saying is, 'Yes, it does bug me.' At a subconscious level, they really are bothered by the prospect of (gaining weight)."

The research team studied 10 American women ages 18 to 24, both married and single, who were admittedly unconcerned with body weight and scored low on a psychological test designed to identify eating-disorder propensities.

The women were then shown several pictures of slender women and overweight women while undergoing functional MRI scanning.

When shown an overweight woman, women with bulimia will have a strong activation in the pre-frontal cortex area of the brain that controls self-reflection.

And what the group discovered was so did the healthy women.

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