Food craving

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A food craving (also called selective hunger) is an intense desire to consume a specific food, and is different from normal hunger.[1] It may or may not be related to specific hunger, the drive to consume particular nutrients that is well-studied in animals. In studies of food cravings, chocolate and chocolate confectioneries almost always top the list of foods people say they crave;[2] this craving is referred to as chocoholism. The craving of non-food items as food is called pica.[3]


There is no single explanation for food cravings, and explanations range from low serotonin levels affecting the brain centers for appetite to production of endorphins as a result of consuming fats and carbohydrates.[1] Foods with high levels of sugar glucose, such as chocolate, are more frequently craved than foods with lower sugar glucose, such as broccoli, because when glucose interacts with the opioid receptor system in the brain an addictive[4] triggering effect occurs. The consumer of the glucose feels the urge to consume more glucose, much like an alcoholic, because the brain has become conditioned to release "happy hormones" every time glucose is present.[5][failed verification]

The cravings for certain types of food are linked to their ingredients. Chocolate for example, contains the neurotransmitter phenylethylamine, which is important for the regulation of the body’s release of endorphins.[citation needed]


Women will often experience cravings for seemingly random foods during pregnancy. The reason that these cravings occur is not definitively known.

It's been theorized that these cravings might be in order to replace nutrients lost during morning sickness. However, there is substantial evidence that pregnancy cravings serve a social function, rather than a nutritional one. Because popular pregnancy cravings differ in their nutritional make-up from culture to culture,[6] it can be inferred that there is no set of nutritional needs that these cravings are filling. Instead, it may be that strange cravings help pregnant women signal that they are pregnant and recruit help from the people around them. Some decent evidence for this is the fact that women often crave rare, hard to obtain foods and reject common-place, everyday ones.[7] Providing pregnant relations with food may have been common among the human ancestor Homo erectus,[8] which provides a possible explanation for the evolution of this behavior.

Different cultures have different popular pregnancy cravings.[9]

One of the treatments for morning sickness consists of accommodating food cravings and aversions.[10]

Depending from the historical period and the culture there are different traditions regarding pregnancy cravings. Some examples are:

  • During pregnancy Hmong women would follow their food cravings to guarantee that their child would not be born with a deformity.[11]
  • In Malta, a pregnant woman is encouraged to satisfy her cravings for specific foods, out of fear that her unborn child will bear a representational birthmark (Maltese: xewqa, literally "desire" or "craving").
  • In the Babylonian Talmud, folio 82a of Tractate Yoma mentions pregnancy cravings for non-kosher food (the passage discusses a pregnant woman who craves pork on Yom Kippur) as the paradigmatic example of a presumed life-threatening situation where a person is allowed to eat non-kosher food (and is permitted to eat it on Yom Kippur).
  • In the Philippines, the condition is traditionally known as lihi, and it is believed that traits of a food that a pregnant woman craves and consumes is imparted to the child. This also extends to objects or people that a woman would find pleasurable to see during her pregnancy.
  • In Thailand a woman who starts craving sour foods after her period has stopped is deemed to be pregnant.[12]

"Chocolate craving"[edit]

Chocolate is seen as a sweet that is desired more by women than by men. Studies conducted in the UK and US[13] and Canada[14] have concluded that women indeed crave chocolate more than men. Also this chocolate craving seems to occur more perimenstrually.[13] However a biological explanation has not been scientifically proven. It seems to have a cultural cause instead of a biological cause. Spanish women experience perimenstrual chocolate craving far less than American women (24% versus 60%) although they should not differ much physiologically. Spanish females crave chocolate more after dinner. The times males crave chocolate also differs between both cultures but was the same as the craving for chocolate of females in their culture (except perimenstrual).[15]

For treating small chocolate cravings, the smell of jasmine has been known to work.[16]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Ronzio RA (2003). "Craving". The Encyclopedia of Nutrition and Good Health (2nd ed.). Facts on File. p. 176. ISBN 978-0-8160-4966-0.
  2. ^ Rogers P (2003). "Food cravings and addictions - fact and fallacy". In Carr T, Descheemaker K (eds.). Nutrition and Health - Current topics - 3 (Antwerp ed.). Garant. p. 69. ISBN 978-90-441-1493-5.
  3. ^ Young SL (22 October 2012). Craving earth: Understanding pica: The urge to eat clay, starch, ice, and chalk. New York, NY: Columbia University Press. ISBN 978-0-231-14609-8.
  4. ^ Bazov I, Kononenko O, Watanabe H, Kuntić V, Sarkisyan D, Taqi MM, Hussain MZ, Nyberg F, Yakovleva T, Bakalkin G (January 2013). "The endogenous opioid system in human alcoholics: molecular adaptations in brain areas involved in cognitive control of addiction". Addiction Biology. 18 (1): 161–9. doi:10.1111/j.1369-1600.2011.00366.x. PMID 21955155. S2CID 12484145.
  5. ^ Yanovski S (March 2003). "Sugar and fat: cravings and aversions". The Journal of Nutrition. 133 (3): 835S–837S. doi:10.1093/jn/133.3.835S. PMID 12612163.
  6. ^ Placek C (October 2017). "A test of four evolutionary hypotheses of pregnancy food cravings: evidence for the social bargaining model". Royal Society Open Science. 4 (10): 170243. doi:10.1098/rsos.170243. PMC 5666241. PMID 29134058.
  7. ^ Placek C (October 2017). "A test of four evolutionary hypotheses of pregnancy food cravings: evidence for the social bargaining model". Royal Society Open Science. 4 (10): 170243. doi:10.1098/rsos.170243. PMC 5666241. PMID 29134058.
  8. ^ O'connell JF, Hawkes K, Blurton Jones NG (May 1999). "Grandmothering and the evolution of homo erectus". Journal of Human Evolution. 36 (5): 461–85. doi:10.1006/jhev.1998.0285. PMID 10222165.
  9. ^ Placek C (October 2017). "A test of four evolutionary hypotheses of pregnancy food cravings: evidence for the social bargaining model". Royal Society Open Science. 4 (10): 170243. doi:10.1098/rsos.170243. PMC 5666241. PMID 29134058.
  10. ^ Weigel MM, Coe K, Castro NP, Caiza ME, Tello N, Reyes M (2011). "Food aversions and cravings during early pregnancy: association with nausea and vomiting". Ecology of Food and Nutrition. 50 (3): 197–214. doi:10.1080/03670244.2011.568906. PMID 21888579. S2CID 27320622.
  11. ^ Fadiman, Anne. The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: A Hmong Child, Her American Doctors, and the Collision of Two Cultures. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux 1997:5
  12. ^ Liamputtong P, Yimyam S, Parisunyakul S, Baosoung C, Sansiriphun N (June 2005). "Traditional beliefs about pregnancy and child birth among women from Chiang Mai, Northern Thailand". Midwifery. 21 (2): 139–53. doi:10.1016/j.midw.2004.05.002. PMID 15878429.
  13. ^ a b Rozin P, Levine E, Stoess C (December 1991). "Chocolate craving and liking". Appetite. 17 (3): 199–212. doi:10.1016/0195-6663(91)90022-K. PMID 1799282. S2CID 14335534.
  14. ^ Weingarten HP, Elston D (December 1991). "Food cravings in a college population". Appetite. 17 (3): 167–75. doi:10.1016/0195-6663(91)90019-O. PMID 1799279. S2CID 36736062.
  15. ^ Zellner DA, Garriga-Trillo A, Centeno S, Wadsworth E (February 2004). "Chocolate craving and the menstrual cycle". Appetite. 42 (1): 119–21. doi:10.1016/j.appet.2003.11.004. PMID 15036792. S2CID 11964265.
  16. ^ Kemps E, Tiggemann M, Bettany S (June 2012). "Non-food odorants reduce chocolate cravings" (PDF). Appetite. 58 (3): 1087–90. doi:10.1016/j.appet.2012.03.002. hdl:2328/34996. PMID 22407134. S2CID 19520253.

Further reading[edit]

  • Ordman, Roc. "The Nutrition Investigator".
  • Cassell, Dana K.; Gleaves, David H. (2006). "craving". The encyclopedia of obesity and eating disorders. Facts on File library of health and living (3rd ed.). Infobase Publishing. ISBN 978-0-8160-6197-6.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)