Ask Dr. Joy Miller: Food cravings

By WEEK Producer

October 10, 2012 Updated Oct 10, 2012 at 6:27 PM CDT

PEORIA, Ill. -- Is that chocolate brownie calling you?

Statistics say 100 percent of women and 75 percent of men say they have had at least one food craving in the last year.

For many of us, cravings aren't just a once a year experience; they might be a weekly, daily or even an hourly situation.

Tonight, we will look at cravings, gender differences, and discuss how these cravings work & offer some suggestions for fending them off.

Facts that we know about food cravings:
· Women have more cravings then men, and young people crave more sweets than older people
· 85 percent of men say that giving into a craving was satisfying and only 57 percent of women say they found it gratifying.
· Food cravings activate the same reward circuits as alcohol and drugs in our brain
· Women who are pregnant may have strange food cravings but research shows little validation of the correlation between the two.
· Research de-bunks the thought that we crave what is deficient in our diet (like eating steak to replace a deficiency in iron)
· We know cultural, social and environmental factors affect cravings. For instance, Americans crave chocolate, Japanese women crave sushi. Only 6 percent of Egyptian women crave chocolate, so there are some sociological differences.

What do we know about the gender difference and food cravings?
· Chocolate is the number one most craved food, which contains mood-altering chemicals (those chemicals that are released when we are in love).
· 40 percent of women crave it and only 15 percent of men
· Salty snacks like pretzels and chips are craved by 8 percent of women and just 3 percent of men
· Pizza is the most commonly craved "meal" food by men: 14 percent of men crave this food choice, with only 7 percent of women. Researchers say that cheese and pork products have more "feel good" chemicals than chocolate
· Meats and steaks are craved more by men but only at a 5 percent to 3 percent ratio. Researchers say it's not the protein that is desirable, it is actually craved due to the salt, fat, smoke and other savory flavors. In fact, the mouth-feel of meat has a name called "umami" caused by receptors in our mouth.

So we all have these food urges, what can we do about resisting the urge?
· If you're feeling an urge coming on, take a whiff of jasmine or peppermint to distract your sensory buds
· Exercise because it gives us an endorphin high that takes away cravings
· Try chewing gum, which satisfies some urge for chewing
· Set a timer for 30 busy and get going on a project. Many times, getting busy makes us forget about the reward that is delayed
· Allow your self a little bite in the middle of a meal or right after. We know that eliminating and having restricted food lists only heightens our desire and craving for those foods.
· The thing we know for sure is the longer we delay a craving, the weaker they say the craving will become.

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