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Ladies' Night Out a Diet Wrecker

Study Shows Women Who Eat With Other Women Tend to Consume More Calories
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Aug. 5, 2009 -- Girls' night out can be fun for single and married women alike, but eating with a large group of women friends may influence you to eat more, a new study suggests.

"Women eating in groups of women tend to increase the calorie values of the food they choose," says Meredith E. Young, PhD, a psychologist and an assistant professor in the Centre for Medical Education at McGill University in Montreal, who led the study.

Women who eat in smaller groups of women friends, she found, eat somewhat less, and those who eat a meal with a man eat even less.

For the men, Young found a different story. Neither the number of dining companions nor the group's gender makeup seemed to make a difference in how much the men ate.

The study is published online in the journal Appetite.

Young and her colleagues observed 469 college men and women eating at three different cafeterias at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, where Young completed the research.

The researchers observed which food items students placed in front of them at the tables, tallied the calories, noted the sex of the people dining, and recorded the size of the groups.

Next, the researchers analyzed what factors affected food intake, such as the sex of dining companions and the size of the group.

Calorie Intake: Men vs. Women

Not surprisingly, Young's team found that total calories were higher for men's meals than for women's. Men averaged about 716 calories while women averaged 609.

When women ate with men, they took in about 552 calories, but when eating with another woman, took in more, about 665.  When two men or two women ate together, they ate about the same number of calories.

"When it is a date situation, that's when we see a big difference," Young says.

When a woman eats with a mixed group, Young found, she also eats less than when she eats only with other women. "As soon as there is a man in the mix, the amount of calories a woman eats decreases."

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