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Who hasn’t heard of pregnancy cravings? Whether they want fruit, fries or frozen treats, future moms are known to have intense and sometimes unusual food urges.
Many theories are used to justify these specific cravings, but it turns out scientists are only sure of one thing: it is a largely understudied phenomenon.
This is where researchers Natalia C. Orloff and Julia M. Hormes come in. In 2014, they published a study in Frontiers in Psychology to assess the credibility of the most commonly accepted hypotheses.
The theory of hormonal changes
Ask anyone who’s expecting: pregnancy alters olfactory and taste perceptions! This phenomenon, which is possibly due to hormonal changes, comes with aversions to some foods and can occur in parallel with food cravings. Nevertheless, the exact nature of this seeming correlation has not been identified.
The theory of nutritional deficiencies
According to this hypothesis, our body steers us towards certain foods because they contain the nutrient we need.
Though an attractive idea, it lacks credibility as the objects of cravings are often high in fat and sugar. If our body were really looking for nutrients, we would be more likely to crave lentils and leafy greens than fries dipped in vanilla milkshake!
The theory of pharmacologically active ingredients
Like the previous hypothesis, it is linked to the potential medicinal effects of the desired foods, especially to counter nausea and vomiting. Some evidence suggests that the latter phenomena are protective mechanisms against ingredients that can be harmful to the pregnancy.
However, further research is needed to demonstrate if cravings encourage the consumption of foods to alleviate these symptoms.
The theory of cultural factors
Our cultural environment has a huge impact on our eating behaviors. While pregnancy cravings exist across various cultures, studies show differences in their type and prevalence.
The researchers even note that, interestingly, many foreign languages have no direct translation for the word “craving”.
According to them, an interesting hypothesis is the attraction-restriction dynamic in our relationship to highly palatable foods. As food cravings are a widely recognized phenomenon, pregnancy may appear as a time of freedom during which you can indulge as you are “eating for two”.
The main conclusion remains that the phenomenon of food cravings during pregnancy remains largely under-studied. More research is needed to identify their causes and functions.
While we wait to find out where exactly they come from, why don’t you tell me about your most memorable craving in the comments?