If you're craving chocolate, just drink some angel tears!
March 2, 2012 12:10 PM   Subscribe

I've seen several variations of this chart circulating (mostly through yoga moms on Pinterest). I'd like a more scientific explanation of nutritional deficiencies versus cravings.

I find this sort of chart unsatisfying as it doesn't really answer the why (or, more importantly, prove the statements in any way), though I am still rather interested in the subject. Can you point me towards any good resources that compare cravings versus deficiencies, with explanations? As it stands I think craving tobacco is probably sign of an addiction as opposed to sign one needs to eat more vegetables (even though that may help).
posted by SassHat to Health & Fitness (11 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
There's a book listed as the source at the bottom of the article.

Benard Jenson, PhD, The Chemistry of Man B. Jensen Publisher, 1983 (deficiencies linked to specific cravings and some food recommendations)
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 12:19 PM on March 2, 2012

Benard Jenson, PhD, The Chemistry of Man B. Jensen Publisher, 1983 (deficiencies linked to specific cravings and some food recommendations)

Note that this is self-published.
posted by The Michael The at 12:27 PM on March 2, 2012 [17 favorites]

There isn't much why. I don't think there's any science behind this at all.
posted by mr_roboto at 12:36 PM on March 2, 2012 [4 favorites]

That chart is about as scientific as a mood ring. There's no scientifically-documented relationship between cravings and deficiencies.
posted by Lyn Never at 12:36 PM on March 2, 2012 [7 favorites]

If this is the same Bernard Jensen who was a chiropractor, advocate of diagnosis by iridiology, and evangelist for high colonics and enemas, you should run like the wind from any recommendations based on his research. The man was a quack with a capital Q, and ill-informed even by the standards of quacks.
posted by Sidhedevil at 12:36 PM on March 2, 2012 [6 favorites]

iPad took out my scare quotes around "research". A decent book about food and nutrition coming from the more evidence-based wing of the "integrative medicine" community is Andrew Weil's Eating Well for Optimum Health. Weil is a bit too woo for me, but that book does refer to actual studies and data.
posted by Sidhedevil at 12:39 PM on March 2, 2012

In particular, the 8 to 10 glasses of water a day thing is nonsense.
posted by mr_roboto at 12:41 PM on March 2, 2012 [5 favorites]

There's no scientifically-documented relationship between cravings and deficiencies.

I agree this chart is a nutritional mood ring but I'm not sure the above statement is accurate. Pica in pregnancy is often tied to iron and other nutrient deficiencies. Cite: 1, 2.
posted by DarlingBri at 12:44 PM on March 2, 2012 [4 favorites]

I have no comment on the other claimed links between the various deficiencies and cravings, but pagophagia (ice chewing) has been associated with iron-deficiency anemia epidemiologically. (Stick those search terms into Google Scholar and you'll get reams of evidence.) That's legit. I've looked at a few studies just now and it appears there's little information on how iron-deficiency makes you crave crunching on ice. It's pretty weird. The studies note that it's not "compensatory" since there's no iron in ice, but that "pathogenesis is unknown."

The directions in the chart still strike me as wonky. First off, this is an epidemiological association not a diagnostic measure. Second, if you really have iron-deficiency anemia you need medical attention, not a slight dietary correction. My impression is that a steak or two probably wouldn't fix the problem. Iron pills are generally indicated.
posted by reren at 1:02 PM on March 2, 2012

Warning sign: it tells you to eat unrefined sea salt to get chloride. Because apparently pure sodium chloride isn't a healthy source of chloride, but sodium chloride mixed with sulfate and magnesium and whatnot is.
posted by Dr.Enormous at 10:17 PM on March 2, 2012 [3 favorites]

Doing a quick search through Pubmed, it appears that here has been at least some research into food cravings over the past 15 years, since most of us have them from time to time and there are clear associations between self-reported food cravings and obesity (some more solid references on the matter here and here).

At no point do any of these studies associate food cravings with nutritional deficiencies**, and with good reason: In Western society we are inundated with food. Few of us have severe nutritional deficiencies and yet 58-97% of us have experienced food cravings (I got those percentages from this paper). Which means that food cravings are predominantly driven by other factors, not our bodies telling us that we need to eat such-and-such. Furthermore, it's difficult to conceptualize how such a feedback system could work mechanistically. Even if we had specific receptors in our body for all of these substances (which we don't) that could signal to our brain and tell us we're short on, say, magnesium, we only have 5 basic tastes: sweet, bitter, sour, salty, and umami. So there's no way that our taste system can inform us that a particular food item has magnesium in it (yes, it's sour, but so are lemons) and should therefore be eaten!

The linked chart represents nothing more than wishful thinking. Actually, it's probably worse than that, since it obfuscates an issue relevant to public health with misinformation. Deserves the attention of snopes.

**With the exception of pica, but that is better described as a behavioural disorder. People with nutritional deficiencies can develop behavioural disorders (due to chemical imbalance), and people with behavioural disorders can exhibit strange behaviour!
posted by kisch mokusch at 5:37 AM on March 3, 2012 [3 favorites]

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