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Craving (DOC)

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Craving

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									Craving
A strong desire for a food that is stronger than HUNGER and specific for a particular food.
Though craving food may suggest a dependency, usually the desire to eat a specific food declines
once it has been eaten. Women generally experience more food craving than men; however, by
middle age this difference disappears. There probably is no single mechanism underlying food
craving. Social factors are involved since taste and appearance of food are learned and
profoundly influence food choices. It is also possible that craving sweets represents a desire for
gratification. Food craving by women may be hormonally driven. Studies have shown that
cravings for sweets and fatty foods are associated with PREMENSTRUAL SYNDROME,
DEPRESSION, and seasonal mood changes.

A biochemical imbalance may promote food craving. This model focuses on the
NEUROTRANSMITTER SEROTONIN, a chemical that helps in the transmission of nerve
impulses. Brain serotonin is lowest before menstruation. Brain centers requiring serotonin
regulate APPETITE, as well as thirst, mood, and sleep. Certain individuals may produce
abnormally low serotonin due to their unique genetic makeup or dietary imbalance. Thus,
craving sweets could be a form of self-medication. According to one hypothesis, carbohydrate
consumption stimulates the brain to increase synthesis of the serotonin from its raw material, the
amino acid TRYPTOPHAN, and that low serotonin levels can trigger the urge to eat sweets.
However, brain serotonin levels may not influence carbohydrate food choices on an ongoing
basis.

Alternative explanations have been offered for food craving. Craving may be based on
ENDORPHINS that decrease pain perception. Endorphin production increases during ovulation
and drops during menstruation. Endorphin formation and release are stimulated when fat and
carbohydrate are eaten together. The craving for chocolate associated with premenstrual
syndrome may be explained by chocolate’s high content of phenylethylamine, a compound that
can promote relaxation and affect mood. Food craving is a possible sign of a FOOD
SENSITIVITY, in which the body may gradually tolerate an allergy-producing food to the extent
that omitting that food from the diet could create a craving (withdrawal) similar to a physical
dependency. A disturbance in the body’s HOMEOSTASIS could create biochemical imbalances
in the brain and in the endocrine system. Thus, changes in hormone levels, nutritional
deficiencies, disease states, and addictions can be predisposing factors to these imbalances. For
example, it is known that low blood-sugar levels can trigger cravings for carbohydrates and
sweets. There could also be a link with the consumption of junk food: CONVENIENCE FOOD
is high in sugar and fat, which slows down digestion, slowing signals to the brain to shut off
hunger signals, which could in turn induce people to eat more junk food than they would
normally. Food craving increases the risk of cigarette smoking and alcohol and drug abuse.

								
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