There are some things that will always go hand-in-hand — Batman and Robin, peanut butter and jelly, Millennials and getting blamed for wrecking the economy — but among the most notorious remains the noble pairing of chocolate and your pre-menstrual cramps. If you're wondering why you crave chocolate before your period, then wonder no more! Science finally got right on solving that mystery for you. The study "Change in women's eating habits during the menstrual cycle" published in the Annals of Endocrinology examined the influence of hormone changes on abrupt changes in appetite, keying in on what exact shifts are to blame for our 10 p.m. Seamless orders of chocolate cake with a side of chocolate.
Their conclusions confirmed something that most menstruating women already know: during certain points in our menstrual cycle we do consume more calories. Specifically, we consume more in the peri-ovulatory phase (or beginning phase) and the luteal phase (after the egg is released, just before your period starts). Also unsurprisingly, most of these calories involved carbohydrates (#represent). But it's that luteal phase — the days right before your period, when the menstrual monsoon is but a shadow looming on your horizon — that the specific cravings for chocolate kick in.
The reason they propose is based on previous research indicating that an increase in estrogen and progesterone in the luteal phase might be to blame. The increase of these two hormones in turn suppresses serotonin, a mood-balancing hormone that is released by — LE GASP — chocolate. So your craving is so much more than just your tastebuds rebelling against your healthy eating agenda — the fault actually lies in your hormone fluctuations.
The study stresses, though, that it isn't so much that this information is new that makes it important — it's important because despite the documented changes in women's weight and demonstrable cravings across the board, the complexity of them are not often considered when evaluating women's diets. And in fact, full understanding of what is happening during these processes is so complex that, according to the researchers, "The exact mechanisms are still poorly understood and require further investigations."
Periods are just one of many female-related health issues that get very little attention in research compared to issues that affect men or both genders; perhaps because of the stigma on periods, or because female issues are disregarded as "lesser" issues, not nearly enough resources are put into their study. So really, studies like this are one small step for understanding our chocolate cravings, and one giant leap for understanding period-kind. Hopefully studies like these get the ball rolling on understanding the complexity of female-related health issues so women can get the proper care they need once and for all.
Images: Giorgio Magini/Stocksy; Giphy