What Causes Food Cravings?

What Causes Food Cravings?


It starts off quiet. A gentle whisper in your
ear. You’re working hard, so you push the thought
away. But soon it comes back, louder and more urgent… You start thinking about the bar in your backpack,
how delicious it would taste… and pretty soon it’s all you can think about as your
brain chants louder and louder… Chocolate! Until you cave and give it what it wants. Sound familiar? You’re not alone. Maybe it was bacon or pizza or a chai latte,
but nearly everyone has felt food cravings at some point. But why? And is this unshakeable desire for a chocolate
bar my body’s way of telling me I need more magnesium? Before we talk about cravings, let’s look
at hunger. Actual, physiological hunger is how your body
tells your brain it needs a resupply of calories. It isn’t about specific flavors, it’s
about survival. When your stomach is empty and your blood
sugar levels are dropping, your body starts secreting ghrelin, otherwise known as “the
hunger hormone.” The ghrelin tells the hypothalamus in your
brain that you need to eat, and triggers a chain reaction that revs up your appetite
and gets your digestive system ready to receive food. Once you’ve gobbled down enough food to
stretch your stomach a bit, the ghrelin tap turns off, and you feel satiated for a while. But if you’ve ever been tempted by the dessert
menu even after a big meal, you know that food cravings are different from straight-up
hunger. In some cases, a food craving can be a sign
that you need more of a specific nutrient — if you’re very low on salt, for example,
you might crave potato chips or pretzels. But if you need something more specific — say,
magnesium — there’s no evidence that you’ll start craving chocolate, even though chocolate
has magnesium in it. Often, cravings are more about a psychological
hunger than a physiological one, and they can be wrapped up in emotions like stress
and anxiety. In the past, we’ve talked about how humans
tend to be drawn to fatty, high-carb foods, in part because they’re loaded with the
energy we need to think and move and do stuff. Sure, that’s a physiological need, but the
pull toward junk food is often a psychological one as well. Eating a butter-frosted cupcake or bag of
salty french fries releases an opioid typhoon that lights up the brain’s pleasure center
and makes us feel awesome, at least for a little while. Celery just doesn’t have the same effect. Cravings are also tied to your brain’s memory
center, which explains why you might also crave a food that isn’t full of fat or sugar
— your brain could be tying that food to a happy memory, or a feeling of reward. And thinking about a memory associated with
a food can make you crave that food. Another psychological cause of cravings? A
boring or restricted diet. In studies where the subjects had to drink
only meal replacement shakes, they ended up with a lot more cravings than usual — especially
for solid foods. And this diet provided all the calories and
nutrition that the subjects’ bodies technically needed, so they probably didn’t get those
extra cravings because they were missing out on some nutrient. Pregnancy hormones, on the other hand, probably
don’t cause cravings. Pregnant women are often portrayed as having
serious urges for things like pickles, and ice cream, but there isn’t much evidence
for a connection between those hormones and cravings. Instead, these cravings probably have more
to do with mood. So if you’re really jonesing for that chocolate,
it’s probably just because your brain remembers that it feels good to eat it. Thanks for craving this episode of SciShow,
brought to you by our patrons on Patreon. If you want to help support this show, just
go to patreon.com/scishow. And then you can go to youtube.com/scishow and subscribe!

100 thoughts on “What Causes Food Cravings?”

  1. When I was pregnant, before I knew I was pregnant, I craved green peppers. Like, I wanted to grab one at the grocery store and bite into it like an apple. Never had that craving before I was pregnant.

  2. Michael, you did really well in this episode, and all other videos in the last long while. I suspect that that is partially due to having a cleaner look, but mostly due to you being familiar to us. The writers are doing a great job, too.
    I remember, when I first saw you. I was quite disappointed, even though you didn't really do anything wrong.
    Keep up the good work. Whatever you do, don't leave.

  3. if you stay sit for long but not in a lie position, sleeping, like arabian allah you start to feel hunger more than usually. this hunger can be so strong like a tiger roar, alah is a tiger or the heart of normal beings or mr.beans that is a spontaneous guess

  4. Can more research be done about Pregnancy Cravings please?

    In my experience, my cravings while pregnant are nutritionally driven, according to my doctor. Cravings of dirt indicated in blood tests that I was short of certain vitamins. Cravings of specific kinds of fruit and veggies (no weird mixes here) indicated a lack of iron and other nutrients that I was coming up short for.

    My Doctor told me not to ignore my cravings, if they were considered safe for consumption while pregnant. I was also cautioned to report strange cravings (such as dirt) to keep her informed and to run tests accordingly.

  5. ChocoPie The Second

    Currently craving: Chocolate cake, milkshakes, potato chips, peanut butter, fries, chocolate cake, pie, marshmallows, ice cream, bacon, eggs, doughnuts, chocolate cake, fruit, pickles, cheese, pizza, popcorn, root beer floats, chocolate cake, chocolate cake, chocolate… wait, what was I saying?

  6. Flavors are a part of most people's experience eating. However, some of us have anosmia or some other smell dysfunction. Cats who have anosmia obtain anorexia and die. Likewise, I have no appetite nor cravings.

    In this video, there was an undertone of another fact. Sense of smell is most linked of the five basic senses to both memory and emotion. Craving, in and of itself, is evidence of an emotion.

    What would be interesting is to learn more about the brain AND THE REASON WHY people like myself HAVE NO appetite. It is to the point that when I do have a moment of feeling hungry, it is awesome, as that is something that happens no more than once every six months, maximum.

  7. Janita van der Kuur

    When I want food it's mostly bread and cereal. I just LOVE that food. Croissants for example, makes me thing about my grandma buying me croissants for the first time and I think they're delicious

  8. I always really crave Vermicelle with pork belly and salad from the local Vietnamese restaurant when i'm stressed, can't get enough of it.

  9. My body keeps saying gooo eat a saaandwich but my mom won't let us get food on our own unless it's half a fruit, we're not allowed to have any at night, I'm 15 why can't I eat and play games at night -_-

  10. Brain: Banana bread.
    Me: we don’t have any over ripe bananas.
    Brain: then buy some.
    Me: stores don’t sell over ripe bananas
    Brain: I’ll have banana split then.
    Me: now you’re talking!
    Brain: Yay!

  11. Really wanted a sandwich with pickles yesterday, problem was I had no bread or pickles. Well almost no food at all to be honest.

  12. I just had hot cheetos and coffee for breakfast and now my stomach hurts really bad. Ive been craving spicy food these past days. Like yesterday i had ive cream and i was tempted to put hot sauce in it. I also had eggs for breakfast yesterday and drowned them in spicy salsa. 🙁 what is happening to me?

  13. I dunno…I once got a major craving for a McDonald's double cheeseburger (and I'm not a fan of McD's in the least). When that mediocrity hit my mouth, it was such a great feeling (I guess it didn't hurt that I was also really hungry, although I'm still trying to figure out why the hell I was craving McD's when Dairy Queen's burgers are better and there was a Dairy Queen much closer by…)

  14. artistryiscomingback

    I really thought you would dive into pregnancy cravings a little more. Maybe there haven't been comprehensive studies on it yet, but impiracle data points to it being perfectly real. 🤷

  15. I have always hunger cravings and because eating too much made me gain weight. I found this red tea https://bit.ly/2PMoD29 which help me control my eating habit. I also lost some weigh from my waist I am very happy for the results I got.

  16. Get rid of craving for junk food with one click. First online service that creates aversion to harmful food.
    Visit http://bit.ly/craving-for-junk-food

  17. Lol! Im craving for Mochi right now! I just ate mochi last week coz Im craving it! Now Im still want one! I even dream about mochi!

  18. I'll agree that pregnancy hormones don't cause cravings. Building a baby does. The process of constructing a human being out of your own self depletes your body of nutrients faster and in new and unexpected patterns. Thus cravings for what you are short on. No one is going to psychologically crave something they know will taste BAD unless their brain puts in a necessity override.

  19. A.R.M.Y SHOOKALLDAYEVERYDAY

    So what's my mood if I want to eat mushrooms from a can with hot sauce, milk and a red Twizzler all in one sitting? 💀

  20. Lesstalking M0remakiing

    I am craving candies and i can eat them everyday ! If i consume alot of sugar everyday i dont understand how it is a deficiency ( lack of something) since i consume them in high amount how can i be deficient ? That doesnt make sens if someone can give me a light about this

  21. Great video! I struggled a lot with cravings on my weight loss journey until I found this product,check it out http://www.lnk123.com/SH10V5

  22. Im craving ice im also 33 weeks pregnant the nice cold ice is so amazing i got a 10 lb bag of ice from the sonic and its almost gone I feel crazy!

  23. true cravings …the kind that make your body move without you consciously making the decision are caused by a habit loop. the habit loop was formed in your basal ganglia and its controlling most of the automatic /habitual actions you perform on a daily basis. He's right about the "reward" part but it only scratches the surface. If you want to understand why you behave the way you behave read a book called "the habit loop" by Charles Duhigg

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