News, Culture & Society

Can you blame your chocolate cravings on your period?

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”.

The study found US women were more likely to blame their cravings on hormonal fluctuations in their menstrual cycle (file photo)


Whether they are physical or emotional, women who have cravings around their periods often reach for comfort food that’s high in fat and sugar.

But giving into sugar cravings caused by PMT isn’t just bad for the waistline – it could also cause premature ageing, experts have warned.  

Research is increasingly showing that sugar ages the skin, says anti-ageing expert Dr Daniel Sister.

And rather than sun damage or smoking, dermatologists have recently pinpointed the biggest ageing trigger of all – destructive molecules called Advanced Glycation End products (or AGEs).

Too much sugar causes glucose molecules to attach to the proteins in collagen – the glue that holds  skin together – to form AGEs.

These sticky brown compounds stiffen the otherwise elastic fibres in the skin, creating lines, blotches and wrinkles.

‘AGEs damage proteins, making cells stiffer, less flexible and more prone to damage and premature ageing,’ Dr Sister told the Huffington Post’s Antonia Mariconda.

‘Collagen and elastin are particularly prone to this damage – and the effects start at around the age of 35 and increase quickly.

‘So the more sugar you eat, the more AGEs develop, meaning the more you crave sugary foods around the time of your period – the quicker you are ageing.’

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.