Scientists have revealed more about cravings

We’re used to hearing about all sorts of cravings in pregnancy and a lot of them include salty food. So it was interesting to read the news yesterday from the team at the Champalimaud Centre for the Unknown in Lisbon, whose research shows that salt could be behind some of it.

A salt cellar spilling onto a table.

This team investigated the changes in the dietary habits of fruit flies after mating. They found that the fruit flies were inclined to seek out saltier food, and also that higher salt levels resulted in more eggs. The study was published in the science journal Current Biology.

But what causes food cravings? How does the brain work out what the body needs and then, how can that lead on to women to looking for the foods that they crave in pregnancy?

'Nutrition is a highly complex topic.' said researcher Dr Ribeiro. 'To understand how the brain regulates nutrient intake, you need to work in an organism that gives you access to a lot of diverse technologies. We wanted... to uncover how the female fruit fly's food preferences changed after mating. Many mammalian species increase their preference for salt during pregnancy; but until now it was not known if the fruit fly shared this behaviour.'

It's all fascinating stuff but our advice to women who come to us about cravings is the same as always. Never to eat anything that isn’t food (coal or toothpaste come to mind!), and try and cut down on unhealthy food, such as crisps, generally. Cravings normally pass without harm.

Women told us about these cravings

I craved Monster munch in the first trimester. I would eat two packs in a row. Now I can’t face them at all.D, mum of two

I had a massive craving for peanut butter.R, mum of one

I started eating strawberries when I was pregnant. I’ve never really liked them and even now I don’t like them.L, mum of two

I’d never eaten chocolate before in my life but when I was pregnant I had a real craving for it. I had to have a bar every day.K4, mum of two

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