Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Women & chocolate

If you crave for a food, then you are normal, or at least in the majority. Over 80% of young women and 75% of young men feel the need for certain foods, while only two out of three older people have the urge to track down specific foods. Chocolate is the single most craved food. No surprises there.

Women love chocolate. They will do almost anything to acquire it. Men too love chocolate, although pizza is more likely to be their first choice. It is often speculated that the desire for chocolate by women is hormonally driven, with the greatest desire just before, and a couple of days after, the onset of menstruation.

The need for chocolate

Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania recruited 280 women who were either 46, 63 or 82 years old. They had determined that if hormone cycles influenced chocolate desire then there should be a 38% drop in chocolate cravings post-menopausal. However, they found only a 13% drop in cravings. About 90% of pre-menopausal women craved chocolate compared to 76% of post-menopausal women, so it is clear the need for chocolate was profound in most women.

It’s not the hormones

The researchers state that: “the sizeable proportion of women in all age groups who report chocolate and other cravings indicates that the notion of 'craving' is not generation-specific, but rather an experience that is familiar to women of any age.”

Previously, these same researchers had speculated that that this craving could be due to the low levels of progesterone at this time of the month. They gave a dose of progesterone to women who suffered severe premenstrual syndrome (PMS) as part of the treatment for PMS. If the theory was correct, then this treatment should also reduce the cravings for chocolate. There was a slight reduction in the craving for chocolate and other sweet foods, but this occurred in both the treatment group and the placebo group. In other words, the administration of progesterone didn’t seem to be the answer.

What does it all mean?

Most of the prevailing evidence suggests that both men and women like chocolate because the flavour elicits the production of endorphins (natures happy chemicals) in the brain. When people are given endorphin blockers, their desire for, and pleasure from, chocolate is greatly diminished. This research on women supports the view that pleasure is the main driver for chocolate and, maybe, the need for pleasure helps dampen any discomfort from periods. This, in turn, supports the view that chocolate should be tax deductable.

(Note: there is no evidence that your love for chocolate is due to a pharmacological effect or a nutrient deficiency. It’s a pleasure thing.)

Reference: Appetite 2009; 53: 256-259


Mel said...

Is there a link between chocolate and pimples?

Donna W said...

Good to know I'm a normal woman then !! Enjoying your blogs / newsletter Glenn.

Donna W

Unknown said...

Thanks Glenn. It is nice to be thought of as knowledgeable and very experienced.
I would say I am very knowledgeable and experienced when it comes to anything to do with chocolate. These days I usually stick to the dark variety for health reasons but sometimes lash out and have some milk chocolate and heaven forbid creamy centres.