Many women blame their cravings for chocolate on ‘the time of the month’.
But it may have more to do with your culture than your physical causes, say experts.
One third of US women report having cravings for the sweet treat that increase in frequency and intensity around the onset of menstruation, a study has shown.
But only about 17 percent of females born in one of 25 other countries linked chocolate craving to their monthly cycle.
‘Menstrual chocolate cravings may be a culture-bound construct,’ said study lead author Julia Hormes, a psychologist at the University at Albany, State University of New York.
‘In a society that emphasizes the ‘thin ideal’ of female beauty, women may view menstruation as a socially acceptable excuse to indulge in otherwise ‘taboo’ food”.
How the research was carried out The researchers surveyed 275 female undergraduate students from a broad range of cultural backgrounds, including 81 born outside of the US.
They found foreign-born respondents were just as likely to desire chocolate as American-born women.
But they were much less likely to blame their cravings on hormonal fluctuations in their menstrual cycle.
While 30.9 percent of US-born women said they experienced chocolate cravings related to their periods, the figure hit more than 40 percent for second-generation Americans.
Yet such yearnings were ‘exceedingly rare’ in other parts of the world, according to the paper, published in the journal PLOS One.
For example, a mere six percent of Egyptian females reported menstrual-related cravings and only 28 percent of Spanish women.
‘These geographic differences hint at the role of cultural norms,’ said assistant professor Hormes.
Are cravings physical and emotional?
However, previous studies have suggested PMS-related cravings for chocolate – which is rich in magnesium – become stronger because levels of the mineral drop during the second half of your menstrual cycle.
In 2004, Michigan State University researchers said women are biologically wired to crave more food in preparation for pregnancy, and fluctuations in the hormones estrogen and progesterone also make them more likely to emotionally eat.
They suggest women are also more conscious of their weight at this time and can feel guilty about these natural cravings. Then they can consume more food in response to these negative emotions.
A 2010 study by Massachusetts Institute of Technology found that even women of a healthy weight increased their calorie intake by more than 1,100 calories daily when they are premenstrual – and the calories came entirely from carbohydrates.