Skip to content

Depression Health Center

Craving Carbs: Is It Depression?

Many people crave carbohydrates when they feel low.
Font Size
A
A
A

Carbohydrate Cravings: What's Known? What's Debated? continued...

Another possibility, says Abramson, is that carb craving may be just a habit, learned early. For instance, a woman brought up to believe that anger is not an acceptable emotion may turn to eating treats such as cookies instead -- because that's what she did as a kid and perhaps was encouraged to do by a parent.

Carb cravings can also result from diets, says Evelyn Tribole, RD, a dietitian in Newport Beach, Calif., and author of Healthy Homestyle Cooking. 

She sees quite a few dieters who crave carbohydrates, especially if they’re on one of the high-protein, low-carb diets.

"You don't want to kill for a piece of broccoli, but you'd kill for a piece of bread. It's a clear signal,” she says, “that your body needs more carbs. It’s not an abnormal craving.”

Carbohydrate Cravings: The Research

Several research studies have uncovered interesting facts about carb cravers.

  • Wurtman found that carb cravers can eat 800 or more calories a day than other people. While many carb cravers do become overweight or obese, others control their weight by exercising more, eating less at meals, or turning to low-fat carbs such as popcorn.
  • Researchers at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago found that carb cravers who have a mildly depressed mood seem to be self-medicating. They studied women who were overweight and had a history of carb cravings. They gave them a choice between a protein-rich beverage or a carb-rich one. They found that when the women reported being in the worst moods, they picked the carb beverage more often than the protein one. In addition, the carb drink improved their mood better.
  • Eating carbohydrates seems to help carb cravers feel better in about 20 minutes, according to Wurtman’s research. When you eat carbs, your body makes more serotonin, the feel-good hormone that is boosted when you are on an antidepressant. Eating the carbs, she says, is an attempt to undo the depressed mood.

Carbohydrate Cravings: Normal or Not?

Step back and analyze your cravings a bit, Wurtman suggests.

Today on WebMD

contemplation
Differences between feeling depressed and feeling blue.
light therapy
What are the symptoms?
 
depressed man sitting on hallway floor
Learn the truth about this serious illness.
Sad woman looking out of the window
Tips to stay the treatment course.
 
unhappy teen boy
Health Check
woman relaxing with exercise ball
Article
 
Pills with smiley faces
Article
Teen girl huddled outside house
Article
 
Depressed man sitting in hospital hallway
Article
antidepressants slideshow
Article
 
pill bottle
Article
Winding path
Article