Craving chocolate on your period has nothing to do with your hormones
(Picture: Getty)

Premenstrual Syndrome is no picnic.

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Whether it’s the cramps, the bloating or the ~tenderness~ that gets you right before your period, most of us find ourselves reaching for a bar of chocolate to soothe the pain.

But those cravings might just be down to clever advertising and cultural exposure, according to the State University of New York, which recently published a study focusing on the PMS symptoms of women in different parts of the world.

Out of 275 women of diverse backgrounds, foreign-born women were half as likely to experience menstrual chocolate craving, compared to women born to U.S.-born parents, and two-and-a-half times less likely than second generation immigrants.

Craving chocolate on your period has nothing to do with your hormones
(Picture: Getty)

The report found that almost 50% of American women crave chocolate specifically around the onset of menstruation, but those cravings were only felt by 17% of first-generation immigrants living in the USA.

And chocolate seems to be a very American problem. In fact, only 6% of Egyptian women and only 28% of Spanish women experienced chocolate cravings in general (not just before their period), as opposed to 90% of American women.

The scientists found that women who displayed the strongest and most frequent chocolate cravings were more likely to be ‘westernised’ than the ones without cravings, and reported ‘significantly greater U.S. acculturation and lower identification with their native culture than non-menstrual cravers.’

Craving chocolate on your period has nothing to do with your hormones
(Picture: Getty)

So, if you crave chocolate right before you’re period, it looks like you have the USA to thank. Immigrants who felt a stronger national identity were far less likely to want chocolate than those who were regularly exposed to American T.V. and magazines where junk food adverts regularly feature.

But can exposure to western culture account for everything? Do poor weather, a sedentary lifestyle, or increased stress levels have any impact on how PMS affects women from different cultures?

‘Not specifically’, said nutritionist Georgios Tzenichristos, of the London-based LipoTherapeia clinic. ‘The researchers have found in this study that there were no significant differences between the three groups in the prevalence of non-chocolate food cravings or in the prevalence of regular, non-PMS related chocolate cravings’.

‘This means that boredom, stress, sedentary/indoor living and weather cannot be blamed for the differences in increased PMS cravings of first generation, second generation immigrant or “native” women: they all experienced normal, day to day (non-PMS) chocolate cravings equally’, says Georgios.

metro illustrations
(Picture: Ella Byworth for Metro.co.uk)

Tzenichristos was also keen to dispel the urban myth that taking the contraceptive pill makes you more likely to crave chocolate and sweet treats.

‘In previous research, scientists have found that, contrary to popular belief, PMS is not related to fluctuations of estrogen and progesterone, so the use of contraception and altered menstrual cycle regularity in Western women cannot be blamed either’, Georgios said.

So how did chocolate become one of the go-to remedies for PMS?

In their research, the scientists suggested that popular culture pushes women to find socially and personally acceptable excuses to consume ‘taboo’ foods like chocolate, such as PMS and pregnancy.

In a world where women’s lifestyle magazines display super-slim bikini models on one page and a great slab of Galaxy bar on the next, chocolate has become a ‘naughty’ treat, a placebo, and a crutch.

‘PMS chocolate cravings are just one example of this process,’ said Georgios, ‘which also serve to highlight our own cultural norms and myths in relation to food, cravings and body image.’.

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