Women eat less when they were out on a date in order to be seen more "attractive", while the sex of the dining companion didn't influence the caloric intake of men, a study has suggested.
According to the findings of a Canadian study, women eat much less around men than they do around other women, and alone. In effect, men acted as "negative predictors" of behaviour, meaning that the more men a woman was eating with, the less she ate.
"When it is a date situation, that's when we see a big difference," said Meredith Young, of the Centre for Medical Education at McGill University in Montreal.
"You can be judged more or less attractive, more or less feminine, more or less desirable depending on what you eat," argued Young, the lead researcher of the study, published in the online food journal Appetite.
For men, it was a different story. Neither the number of dining companions nor the group's gender makeup seemed to make a difference in how much men ate.
Based on the study of 460 students at McMaster University, Young found women dining with one other woman ate an average of 670 calories worth of food during their meal, and women eating with up to three other women ate 750 calories.
Eating with a man had women consuming an average of just 540 calories, and eating with a group of men drew the lowest result, with the average consumption at 450 calories for the women involved.
Women who eat in smaller groups of female friends, the Canadian study found, eat somewhat less, and those who eat a meal with a man eat even less.
"When more and more women get together, the caloric count seems to increase. But men, nothing really affected them at all," Young stressed.
Speculating on why dining companions of the opposite sex influence women's eating behavour, Young said it could be due to "social signaling thing". In effect, women want to look "more attractive", especially if a potential date or mate is sitting at the table.