It is a well-known maxim that you shouldn’t visit the supermarket when feeling hungry, but new research suggests the same is true when going out in search of romance.
Both men and women are more likely to be attracted to people who are larger when they go out on an empty stomach.
Men, in particular will choose more voluptuous women if they have missed a meal while women go for larger, heavier set men.
But scientists warn that when then hunger is sated, they may not feel the same.
Psychologist Dr Viren Swami of Westminster University showed 266 men a series of cartoons of women and asked them to rate them in terms of attractiveness. Men who were hungrier selected larger women, with bigger breasts.
Speaking at the Cheltenham Science Festival Dr Swami said: “Hunger can change your perception of who is attractive. If a man is hungry they prefer slightly larger breast size in women. They also prefer slightly larger women in general.
“For women then generally prefer a slightly heavier man.
“In studies, they hadn’t eaten for about six hours and you could see a real difference in their preferences.”
Dr Swami believes that when hungry, people are looking for partners who can supply them with sustenance, and a larger person suggests they have been successful at finding food.
However Professor Gareth Leng, of the University of Edinburgh, claims the phenomenon may occur because the same part of the brain, which controls hunger, also controls libido.
“There is a good piece of science behind it,” he said: “Sex and hunger are too fundamental drives.
“It probably explains why we go for dinner and then want to have sex.”
A part of the brain called the ‘ventromedial nucleus’ is full of ‘cuddle hormone’ oxytocin which controls appetite and sex drive. When people are hungry the hormone is being used to promote food cravings rather than sex drive so a person would subconsciously choose a partner who could ‘feed them.’
But when they are full, oxytocin then starts to promote libido and usual feelings of attraction kick back in.