Are Cravings a Result of Marketing?

Yes. I’m one of the many who crave chocolate.

Yes. I’m one of the many who crave chocolate.

Here it is! The post you’ve all been waiting for. We promised to write about the topic of cravings (see: We Are What You Eat) so here it is.

Many women love sugary sweets. I mean, there’s a reason the oh-so-trendy cupcake is marketed towards the ladies. Men, on the other hand, love their chips and steaks. Of course there’s crossover there but this is the common perception. There’s a reason why bar-b-que commercials usually feature a dude behind the grill.

First, let’s talk about a common addition – sugar, namely chocolate. Researchers at the Spanish council for Scientific Research in Madrid discovered that ordinary cocoa and chocolate bars contain alkaloids known as tetrahydro-beta-carbolines. These same chemicals, according to researcher Tomas Herraiz, are linked to alcoholism. Also known as neuroactive alkaloids, they are currently being researched for possible influences on mood and behavior.

The Diabetes Association found that 40% of women crave chocolate (of that number, 75% say that nothing but chocolate can satisfy their sweet tooth) while 15% of men crave chocolate.

Researchers say these cravings may be due to a magnesium deficiency (something many females experience during PMS). That being said, eating a bit of chocolate is not harmful but, like anything else, if it reaches binge levels, then it can be a problem.

Some, however, say that the real reason is that women have fallen prey to chocolate marketing. It is sold to us as a way to deal with negative emotions. This might be a North American phenomenon, though. Women in Spain reportedly don’t crave chocolate as much as we North Americans do. Of course they don’t have a different menstrual cycle, they just don’t get hit with commercials for tampons and chocolate during the same commercial break.

As for men, eating meat is commonly associated with masculinity. However, there’s no real evidence that states men need more meat than women (yes, they typically need more calories and protein but not necessarily meat). In fact, when you pay attention, it comes down to marketing.

Real men eat meat? Sounds like a cliché.

Real men eat meat? Sounds like a cliché.

As writer Laura Brehaut points out in her excellent National Post story Why are we programmed to think meat is for men?: “Fast-food restaurants run advertising campaigns that crudely hint at oral sex: Burger King’s “long, juicy and flame-grilled” burger floating in front a woman’s parted lips (taglined with: “It’ll blow your mind,” just in case you missed it). In an Arby’s ad that ran in a recent Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue, feminine hands are shown clutching a pair of oversized bacon and cheddar roast beef sandwiches representing breasts, with the tagline: “We’re about to reveal something you’ll really drool over.””

Huh. Seems obvious, doesn’t it? To take it a step further, visiting assistant professor at Willamette University Anne De-Lessio-Parson, identified a connection between meat-eating and masculinity in a 2017 study published in the Journal of Feminist Geography, writes Brehaut.

“In analyzing 23 interviews with vegetarians in Argentina, DeLessio-Parson discovered that vegetarian men in particular were “much more open” to discussions of feminism and equal rights for women. There are several theories that address why this connection between gender and carnivorous attitudes exists in Western society. Masculinity tropes persist, in part, DeLessio-Parson says, because they satisfy a desire to feel connected to our roots.”

More: “The idea that we’ve evolved to eat meat – and that men have more power in Western society because they were more likely to do the hunting – is long-standing. That link between masculinity and meat-eating is then strengthened and reinforced through perpetual portrayals in popular culture.”

It’s a fascinating subject. Regardless of your stance, it’s good to be aware. Checking into those cravings, recognizing where they might come from, enjoying them from time to time, and giving some thought to what we put into our bodies as well as where it comes from, is never a bad idea.