Specific Appetites And Nutrient Depletions

The organism must concern itself not only with overall energy balance, but also with its inventory of the nutrients crucial to its well-being. Many well-known diseases (eg, scurvy and rickets) may appear in otherwise well-fed individuals who lack a particular vitamin or mineral. Specific appetites refer to hardwired cravings for certain substances the absence of which is detected and, wherever the food supply permits, rectified. It should be noted that whereas some deficits (eg, salt) produce clear cravings, not all deficiencies are detectable by the suffering organism.

Recently, speculation has arisen that the organism may regulate nutrients (especially macronutrients) not so much for their medicinal value as for their psychoactive effects. Most notably, a carbohydrate-craving hypothesis has been championed (19). It is argued that a deficiency of carbohydrates affects neurotransmitter levels to create a negative affective state; accordingly, individuals may learn to (over)eat carbohydrates in an attempt to bolster their mood, especially when they are feeling upset or depressed. This hypothesis has been offered to explain the overeating characteristic of bulimia nervosa and some forms of obesity.

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