It’s 2 am. Maybe you’ve had a long night of studying for an exam, going out to party or binge watching Netflix. You have got to be hungry after these night time activities but what is your go-to late craving? I personally am a Doritos type of guy. But why do I crave certain things while others crave food I wouldn’t touch. Does craving depend on gender? Why are girls stereotyped to love chocolate especially around their time of the month? Is there any fact in the perceptions that men love meat and women love chocolate and other sweets? These questions all revolve around the topic of cravings and more specifically gender differences in cravings (if there is actually any evidence to support this).
The Studies (small and inconclusive)
Chocolate is a very common variable used for these craving studies due to the hysteria surrounding the hypothesis and observation that women seem to want this based on observation and just common knowledge at this point. Is there a mechanism to this ludicrous and possibly media induced claim? In these experiments, food scientists attempted to test to see if women really indeed do crave chocolate by using various methods including brain scans and surveys (observational and experimental studies). They wanted to determine if chocolate connects to a part of the brain that women are more in touch with than men or if the chocolate premenstrual connection is a ploy by companies to sell more product by power of suggestion.
The first study, courtesy of NBCI, was conducted which polled Spanish and American women asking if they craved chocolate premenstrually. The percentage of American women was much higher than the Spanish women. (40% to 4% on the open-ended questions) Men and women reported wanting chocolate at the same times of day, which were common hunger periods for wanting food for example after studying. This suggests near to no evidence for the chocolate craving claim in women alone.
In another study published by Dr. Julia Hormes, 97 women were surveyed. This observational study was also in the form of a survey and rejected the null that women crave the sweets because of a biological or brain factor.
The last study by Paul Smeets focused on brain scanning and concluded there was a difference response to chocolate in men and women, however the sample size was very very small resulting in a larger value.
From the turn out of these trials the link of chocolate to cravings between women and men seemed to differ very little. What is the third variable here causing speculation about this correlation. I believe in this case the third variable is actually causing the correlation. (meaning its not really a third variable after all) The real link that should be looked it at is the effect of marketing chocolate to women or marketing in general. Marketing teams do a great job of making you convince yourself you need a product and in these cases it seems to single genders out as potential buyers. Commercials time and time again show men chowing down on something meaty or savory while women something sweet. To me, the advertisers seem to create these illusions that genders like certain products better when they are really just convincing us what to buy. So listen to your stomach… and eat what YOU like.