Why Do I Crave Chocolate So Much?

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Why Do I Crave Chocolate So Much?

Chocolate craving is perhaps the most common food craving, especially among women. A deficiency in magnesium is considered one reason while some others attribute it to the mood-enhancing effects of its constituents. No studies, however, have proven any pharmacological effect of chocolate concluding that chocolate craving is nothing but hedonic.

If there is one food that can easily be associated with craving, it is chocolate. Think about a decadent piece of chocolate and your mouth begins to water naturally. This is especially true in the case of women. Did you know there is more chocolate craving among women than men?1 And the younger you are, the more guilty you are of this “sin”?2

Is Chocolate Craving Real?

It’s completely natural and very common to have cravings for food. Going by the statistics, 97 percent of American women and 68 percent of men have had food cravings at some point in their lives. Of all the food cravings, craving for chocolate is the most common with no less than 40 percent of American women and about 15 percent men having experienced it.3 Theories related to chocolate craving abound with no substantial conclusion derived on what exactly causes it. Let’s look at them in detail.

Nutritional Deficiency, A Possible Cause?

Many food cravings have been attributed to a deficiency or the other. In chocolate craving, it is often thought that it is when the body becomes deficient in the mineral magnesium that it seeks chocolate.4 How true is that?

A typical American diet is often deficient in magnesium even though there are many dietary sources of magnesium available. But we find this theory problematic because even if you don’t get enough magnesium from your diet, it is very rare to have a magnesium “deficiency”.5 Moreover, chocolate has relatively less amount of magnesium in it compared to other foods like nuts and leafy vegetables. If it is the deficiency that causes you to crave chocolate, why wouldn’t you crave for higher sources of magnesium and not just chocolate?

Or Is It All In The Brain?

Chocolate, without a doubt, is a mood lifter. And it is quite natural to constantly reach out for something that makes you happy instantly. In some cases, chocolate craving is even associated with depression.6

One school of thought believes in the possibility of carbohydrates in it doing the trick. A 100 gm chocolate has about 20 percent carbohydrates in it. A meal high in carbohydrate increases the amount of tryptophan that enters the brain which in turn increases the level of the neurotransmitter serotonin responsible for modulating mood. Moreover, some people have reported drug-like dependence on chocolate to feel good. This is believed to be the effect of certain constituents in chocolates like anandamides, caffeine, phenylethylamine and magnesium. Research, however, has debunked this theory stating that the mood-elevating properties of carbs in food is nullified by the presence of protein, however small the amount may be, in the food. In the case of chocolate, it contains 13 percent protein which would decrease rather than increase the uptake of tryptophan. As far as other constituents go, the research found that the levels of these drug-like substances provided by a bar of chocolate to be too low to produce any pharmacological action.7

After All Chocolate Is Well, Chocolate!

Having said that, have you ever considered the possibility that we crave chocolate because it is appealing to our senses? The results of many recent studies into chocolate craving suggest that chocolate craving is purely sensory. In these studies, the researchers found no evidence of a pharmacological effect of chocolate.8

Studies on premenstrual craving for chocolate among women also have found no evidence of chocolate having any pharmacological effect concluding that the effect is only hedonic.9

Then what is it? Most food cravings are associated with sweetness. And this is no different in the case of chocolate.10 A preference for sweet food is both innate and universal and it is considered pleasurable to have sweet food across individuals of all ages, races, and cultures.11

Eating chocolate neither fills nutritional gap nor does it alter the level of chemicals in our brain making us happier or sadder. Chocolate craving is more sensorial than anything else. So the next time you brand yourself a chocolate addict, remember it is mostly the sugar and little else doing the trick.

References   [ + ]

1. Zellner, D. A., A. Garriga-Trillo, E. Rohm, S. Centeno, and S. Parker. “Food liking and craving: A cross-cultural approach.” Appetite 33, no. 1 (1999): 61-70.
2. Pelchat, Marcia Levin. “Food cravings in young and elderly adults.” Appetite 28, no. 2 (1997): 103-113.
3. Yanovski, Susan. “Sugar and fat: cravings and aversions.” The Journal of nutrition 133, no. 3 (2003): 835S-837S.
4. Bruinsma, Kristen, and Douglas L. Taren. “Chocolate: food or drug?.” Journal of the American Dietetic Association 99, no. 10 (1999): 1249-1256.
5. Magnesium. UMM.
6. Parker, Gordon, and Joanna Crawford. “Chocolate craving when depressed: a personality marker.” The British Journal of Psychiatry 191, no. 4 (2007): 351-352.
7. Benton, David, and Rachael T. Donohoe. “The effects of nutrients on mood.” Public health nutrition 2, no. 3a (1999): 403-409.
8. Michener, Willa, and Paul Rozin. “Pharmacological versus sensory factors in the satiation of chocolate craving.” Physiology & behavior 56, no. 3 (1994): 419-422.
9, 10. Rozin, Paul, Eleanor Levine, and Caryn Stoess. “Chocolate craving and liking.” Appetite 17, no. 3 (1991): 199-212.
11. Drewnowski, Adam, Julie A. Mennella, Susan L. Johnson, and France Bellisle. “Sweetness and food preference.” The Journal of nutrition 142, no. 6 (2012): 1142S-1148S.