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Are food cravings ever targeted at the nutrients we actually need? © iStock

Are food cravings ever targeted at the nutrients we actually need?

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For when you absolutely need to justify that extra slice of cake...

Asked by: Richard Kemp, Jersey

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It's tempting to think that giving in to a craving is simply correcting a nutrient imbalance in the body, but there isn't any good evidence to support this. Chocolate, for example, contains magnesium, and low magnesium levels have been shown to worsen premenstrual symptoms in women. However, you would need to eat 20 bars of chocolate to get enough magnesium that way.

Chocolate also contains many mood-altering compounds, including caffeine, theobromine, serotonin and tryptophan. But dairy products also contain these, and at higher concentrations, yet we are much less likely to crave them.

In some societies, pregnant women may eat clay, soil or termite mounds, but this seems to have a cultural, rather than a nutritional basis. Indeed, women who eat dirt, or 'geophagy' as it is called, often cause their malnutrition, rather than cure it.


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Authors

luis villazon
Luis VillazonQ&A expert

Luis trained as a zoologist, but now works as a science and technology educator. In his spare time he builds 3D-printed robots, in the hope that he will be spared when the revolution inevitably comes.

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