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Mood, Food, and Cravings

Michael's picture

Found a couple of interesting things today - possibly related to chronic tryptophan deficiency.

Chronic Tryptophan Deficiency and Carbohydrate Cravings

Brain serotonin (5-HT) levels may interact with use or intake of alcohol, morphine, amphetamine, and cocaine [37,50,57]. It has also been argued that craving for carbohydrates may be influenced by levels of brain serotonin. The major hypothesis of this type is that ingestion of carbohydrate (in the absence of protein) increases the availability of the serotonin precursor, tryptophan, thereby raising the level of brain serotonin. In view of the role of low levels of 5-HT in depression, the increase in levels caused by carbohydrate ingestion is particularly reinforcing to depressed individuals and this leads to self-medication with, or craving for, carbohydrates.

Chocolate cravings

Chocolate and emotional comfort When attitudes to chocolate were explored, using factor analysis, two major factors resulted13. The first factor was labelled craving and was associated with a considerable preoccupation with chocolate and eating it compulsively. The questions fell into two groups. Chocolate was "overpowering," "preys on my mind," you cannot "take it or leave it" and "can’t get it out of my head." The weakness for chocolate occurred when under emotional stress; "when I am bored", "to cheer me up", "when I am upset" and "when I am down." The coupling of these two groups of questions suggested a link between negative mood and an intense desire to consume chocolate. The second factor also included two types of question. Firstly there are comments associating chocolate with negative experiences: I feel "unattractive," "sick," "guilty," "depressed," "unhealthy" after eating chocolate. It is not surprising that after eating chocolate "I often wish I hadn’t." Associated with this guilt are comments related to weight and body shape: "I often diet," "I look at the calorific value of a chocolate snack," "If I ate less chocolate I think I would have a better figure." The second factor was labelled "guilt." Hetherington and MacDiarmid14 commented that self-reported ‘chocolate addicts’ do not represent an homogeneous group. It may well be that some self-reported ‘chocolate addicts’ feel guilt whilst others do not.

The factor analytical approach confirmed, in a normal population, the impression created previously when those with psychological problems have been considered. Chocolate is consumed in moments of emotional distress, it is consumed for its comforting properties. A group who reported "self-medicating" with chocolate were more likely to have personality traits associated with hysteroid dysphoria, a syndrome characterized by episodes of depression in response to feeling rejected15. The experience of strong food cravings was associated with being more bored, anxious and having a dysphoric mood16. Although a desire for chocolate was associated with depression it was not found to be related to suicidal thoughts.


Sugar and Fat: Cravings and Aversions

Food cravings are extremely common, particularly among women. Cravings are frequently reported for specific types of foods, including chocolate and foods high in both sugar and fat. Cravings for specific macronutrients, such as carbohydrate, have been postulated to result from a physiological need to alter neurotransmitters in such states as eating disorders, affective disorders or obesity. However, studies of such cravings are often confounded by differing sensory properties of high and low carbohydrate foods. There is some evidence that sweet, high fat foods are preferred by women with binge-eating disorders and that those preferences are mediated by the endogenous opioid system. Aversion to fat is seen primarily in women with anorexia nervosa. However, it is possible that changes in fat preference may be achieved through behavioral or pharmacological approaches. An understanding of food cravings and aversions may lead to improved methods for the prevention and treatment of obesity and eating disorders.

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alliejon's picture

How is Teri doing?

I miss her posts!! I started CAD again on 9/28 and I'd down 28 pounds!! This is the time I'm sticking with it!!


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About Michael

Michael's picture

About me

I'm Mike. I'm LowCarbForLife's (Teri's) hubby. I manage the LowCarbCompatible™ web site, among many other things. I don't follow a strict diet but I do follow LowCarbForLife's way of eating most of the time, since we eat together (and I cook most of the time).

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Current Diet Type
Carbohydrate Addict's Lifespan Program (CALP)

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