Food craving is often defined as an intense desire for a particular food or type of food." Although the term "food craving" is widely cited in the lay press, a scientific definition for it does not exist. In fact, scientists argue over the utility of such a subjective, ill-defined term.
Craving is most often self-reported and, as such, is influenced by a subject's own view of the intensity of the craving. Objective attempts to measure craving have included amount and speed of food consumption and psychobiologic measures, such as heart rate and skin conductance. Each measure has numerous limitations and is difficult to interpret. In addition, scientists find it difficult to compare studies that use different measurement tools. Despite these methodologic problems, the concept of craving remains important to the understanding of food intake.
Food cravings are quite common. In a study of college students, 68% of men and 97% of women reported having experienced food cravings. Both sexes reported that the frequency of their cravings was one to four times per month, and 85% of both men and women reported satisfying their cravings more than 50% of the time.
The most frequently reported food craving among young women is for chocolate. In the previously mentioned study of college students, 39% of women craved chocolate compared with 14% of men. In men, the prevalence of chocolate craving was similar to the craving for pizza.
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