While some U.S. women believe they need a dose of chocolate because their period is near, the culture they live in may be key to that impulse, new research suggests.
Chocolate cravings are common among premenstrual American women — but unusual elsewhere in the world, the new study finds.
“Menstrual chocolate cravings may be a culture-bound construct,” said study lead author Julia Hormes. She is 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,” she explained.
For the study, the researchers surveyed 275 female undergraduate students who represented a broad range of cultural backgrounds, with 81 born outside of the United States.
The investigators found foreign-born respondents were just as likely to desire chocolate as American-born women. But they were much less likely to attribute the cravings to hormonal fluctuations in their menstrual cycle.
For example, about one-third of the American-born women said they experienced chocolate cravings related to their periods. That figure hit more than 40 percent for second-generation Americans, the findings showed.
But only about 17 percent of women born in one of 25 other countries linked any chocolate craving they might have experienced to their menstrual cycle.
And “while menstrual chocolate cravings are common in the U.S., they are rare in other parts of the world,” said Hormes. She cited past research showing that only 28 percent of Spanish women experience chocolate cravings around the onset of menstruation.
“These geographic differences hint at the role of cultural norms,” she suggested.
The findings were published online recently in the journal PLOS One.
For more on how to stop food cravings, see the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.