Why Do We Get Food Cravings? Part 2


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In the last blog I explained some of the background to food cravings. However, I wanted to know why some people get specific cravings and why we get cravings even we aren't hungry.

According to a TLC article the processes between stomach hunger and craving hunger work completely differently in the body. Stomach hunger is rather simple. Once the body has used up whatever food source it previously had, the hormone ghrelin tells the hypothalamus in our brain to start making neuropeptide Y which causes an appetite. Craving hunger however is much different. Fattening sugary foods contain opioids which "give us the feeling of pleasure or even mild euphoria." When cravings hit, the hippocampus and the caduate light up. The hippocampus is in charge of long term and short term memory. The caduate regulates the dopamine reward system within the brain. So one could say that cravings are a person remembering how good a certain food made them feel and the body's way of saying it wants to feel that way again. What is interesting is that addiction works in a very similar way. This could explain why the urge to eat whatever you are craving is so strong.
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Why do I get cravings for certain foods?? Well that can be traced back to before you were even born. While in the womb babies start to develop a taste for the kinds of foods their mother eats in the third trimester. For that reason many babies prefer sweet tasting foods and it is a trait that follows them into their adult lives. According to an article in the Washington post, as we age we develop memories for certain foods we enjoyed as kids and it gives us a sort of warm fuzzy feeling as we associate it back to that time. For this reason it is extremely rare for a person to have a craving for a food they never tried before. However these feelings that we associate with food is also part of what gives cravings their addicting quality.

Do you feel like you are addicted to certain foods? Do you think cravings should be avoided because of their addicting qualities?

3 Comments

You bring up a good point about how food can be considered pleasurable when experiencing cravings. When people are stressed, upset, or experiencing any other types of negative emotions, they try to replace that feeling wit anything the can make them happy. In this case that is food. Hunger and cravings are completely different because hunger is a physical strain on your digestive system which sends signals to the brain while cravings are all mental. But my one question is what type of emotion triggers the great food cravings? Girls are notorious for eat a bowl of ice cream when they're depressed or pregnant women eat anything in sight in the middle of the night, but what gives off the greatest cravings?

Though it has been touched on in this blog, the idea of hunger being an addictive drug is an interesting correlation. The part that interests me is the neurons firing in the brain when a certain delicious food is consumed. Effectively, it's a natural high that the person receives when biting into the food. The fact that the desires for sex and food take place in the same part of the brain speaks to how important food (our fuel) is, looking at it from an evolutionary stand point. Other than hunger, what daily thing happens several times a day and leaves you completely satisfied after you've taken care of it?

That is very interesting and kind of cool at the same time. So pretty much what your mother ate when you were inside of her determines what kind of food you are going to eat as a baby. I know I love chocolate chip cookies which could be because my parents use to make them so they kind of remind me of going home. It is kind of like another meal i make here in my apartment which every time i make it i think of home and being home. I do not think cravings should be avoided. As long as you do not over eat and you manage what you do and enjoy everything in quantities you should be fine.Healthy Living

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