July 29, 2012 at 1:55 PM ET
Lay the blame for your chocolate habit wherever you want, but a new study suggests that women's cocoa cravings do not increase before menstruation.
In the study, college women were no more likely to say they had an intense desire for chocolate during the days leading up to their period compared with other days.
In addition, the stage of the women's menstrual cycle did not affect their cravings for high-fat foods, or the amount of chocolate they ate, the researchers said.
The new findings contradict earlier studies, which found an increase in reports of chocolate cravings in the days before menstruation. However, these studies may have included women with eating disorders, such as bulimia, which could affect the results, the researchers said. The new study included only women without eating disorders.
In addition, past studies often asked women to think back in time, instead of asking about current cravings, as the new study did.
However, the new study was small — just 35 women — and so further research is needed to confirm the results, the researchers said.
Women came into the laboratory at two stages of their menstrual cycle: the late luteal phase, or seven days before menstruation at the most, and the late follicular phase, the time about midway through the cycle, before an egg is released. Participants were included in the study only if they had regular periods, and if they said they had craved chocolate at least once in the past six months.
The researchers validated the women's stage within their cycles by measuring their levels of luteinizing hormone, a hormone that triggers ovulation.
The researchers asked the women about food cravings before and after presenting them with a bowl of chocolate. They noted that showing people food is known to increase cravings, and that the study did not examine whether changes in mood experienced outside the laboratory could trigger such cravings.
"Further research is needed to determine the role of food cravings in response to emotions across the menstrual cycle," the researchers said.
The study will be published in an upcoming issue of the journal Appetite. It was conducted by Megan Apperson McVay of Louisiana State University and colleagues.
Copyright 2013 Thomson Reuters.