VIEWS: 0 PAGES: 1 POSTED ON: 1/9/2012
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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