Does culture create craving? Evidence from the case of menstrual chocolate craving

PLoS One. 2017 Jul 19;12(7):e0181445. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0181445. eCollection 2017.


Craving is considered a key characteristic of diverse pathologies, but evidence suggests it may be a culture-bound construct. Almost 50% of American women crave chocolate specifically around the onset of menstruation. Research does not support popular accounts implicating physiological factors in menstrual chocolate craving etiology. We tested the novel hypothesis that greater menstrual craving prevalence in the U.S. is the product of internalized cultural norms. Women of diverse backgrounds (n = 275) reported on craving frequency and triggers and completed validated measures of acculturation. Foreign-born women were significantly less likely to endorse menstrual chocolate craving (17.3%), compared to women born to U.S.-born parents (32.7%, p = .03) and second generation immigrants (40.9%, p = .001). Second generation immigrant and foreign-born women endorsing menstrual chocolate craving reported significantly greater U.S. acculturation and lower identification with their native culture than non-menstrual cravers (all p < .001). Findings inform our understanding of food cravings, with important implications for the study of cravings in other domains.

MeSH terms

  • Acculturation
  • Adolescent
  • Chocolate*
  • Craving*
  • Culture*
  • Female
  • Food Preferences / physiology
  • Food Preferences / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Menstruation / physiology
  • Menstruation / psychology*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United States
  • Young Adult

Grant support

The authors received no specific funding for this work.