Menstruation: increased desire for fries, pizza, chocolate and co

Feel like high calorie before the period

Many women experience cravings shortly before the period. Often this lust is mainly about sweet and salty things like fast food. Researchers have now investigated what role the brain plays in hunger for high-calorie foods.

Many women are familiar with the problem: shortly before menstruation, the cravings for fast food and sweets report, which negates the good intentions. But why is that? Researchers at the Justus Liebig University in Gießen (JLU) have examined the role the brain plays in this.

Premenstrual symptoms

Are you craving fries, burgers and pizza or craving ice cream, cakes and chocolate? Shortly before the start of the period, many women experience mood swings, difficulty concentrating or breast tenderness, as well as a sudden craving for sweets or salty foods.

According to a message, these premenstrual symptoms and cravings for certain foods are mainly related to the biochemical changes during the monthly cycle.

A research team at JLU has now investigated whether the female brain is particularly sensitive to food stimuli shortly before the period. The results of the study were published in the specialist journal "Hormones and behavior".

Pictures rated for their palatability

According to the information provided, the team at the Professorship for Psychotherapy and Systems Neuroscience and the Professorship for Differential and Biological Psychology (Department 06 / Department of Psychology) at the JLU, in addition to 35 young healthy women who do not use hormonal contraception over a period of three months Laboratory invited - in the first half of the cycle, at the time of ovulation and just before menstruation.

The participants were asked to look at pictures of high and low-calorie foods and to rate them for their palatability. To measure the attention and sensitivity to the images, the researchers derived the brainwaves of the women using an electroencephalogram (EEG) and measured the respective concentration of the sex hormone progesterone.

In addition, the subjects provided information on complaints and impairments related to the monthly cycle based on their own experience. The women reported in part from malaise to pain, but also from impairments in their social relationships, for example in the work environment or in their hobbies.

Draw attention to food stimuli

As stated in the communication, the data collected as part of the study show that women are significantly more sensitive to images of high-calorie foods shortly before menstruation than in other cycle phases. However, this effect did not appear for low-calorie images.

"The lower the progesterone concentration and the greater the impairments that the women reported in connection with their period, the lower the EEG response to pictures of high-calorie foods", summarizes first author Dr. Jana Strahler put the results together. There were no differences in the subjective evaluation of the pictures.

The scientists therefore believe that women with low progesterone levels before the period and with higher menstrual complaints find it easier to draw their attention to food stimuli. It has not yet been clarified whether such a changed reaction is also relevant for the development of eating disorders, obesity (obesity) or premenstrual dysphoric disorders.

According to the experts, further studies on patients must show whether a reduced sensitivity to high-calorie foods makes them susceptible to excessive consumption of high-sweet and high-fat foods or, on the contrary, even prevents them. (ad)

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the requirements of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.


  • Justus Liebig University Gießen (JLU): cravings for sweets and salty just before menstruation, (accessed: July 12, 2020), Justus Liebig University Gießen (JLU)
  • Strahler, J., Hermann, A., Schmidt, NM, Stark, R., Hennig, J., & Munk, AJ: Food cue-elicited brain potentials change throughout menstrual cycle: Modulation by eating styles, negative affect, and premenstrual complaints; in: Hormones and behavior, (published: 03.07.2020), Hormones and behavior

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