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My mother has told me that if your body needs a certain vitamin, you will find you feel like eating fruits that include that vitamin.

For example, if you have lack of Vitamin C, you'll get a craving to eat an orange.

Is this true?

  • 1
    I don't recall reports of early long distance sailors knowing they were going to get scurvy because they couldn't eat the fruit they needed. – Mark Hurd Feb 28 '15 at 9:27
  • @MarkHurd: I think that presence of the material in question is probably implied. So, if you're short on Vitamin C, you won't necessarily sit there, going, "You know what, I could really do by an orange", but rather, when you see it on the counter, you desire it. shrug And I suspect that the sailor's accounts probably do include cases where they were yearning for fruits, but they were probably yearning for anything with flavor after months of hardtack and jerky. – Sean Duggan Mar 2 '15 at 18:28
  • Not precisely related, but skeptics.stackexchange.com/a/3248/19346 indicates that there is some degree of your body finding items with the nutrients you need more desirable in taste. But that's after eating, not before. – Sean Duggan Mar 2 '15 at 18:30
  • Adding this for the joy of somewhat-related weirdness: bbc.com/news/blogs-news-from-elsewhere-32428154 – Benjol May 6 '15 at 13:36
  • I'd agree with the Dukes comments on reddit That hunger cravings is such a complex process it's hard to give a certain answer other than there is an evolved system in humans that generates cravings Pica which probably evolved as an unreliable system that was better than none in malnutrition environments – Mikey Mouse May 7 '15 at 13:09
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Ok, this would appear to be supported.

Some of the papers I link will be about rats, some about humans because it's unethical to intentionally starve humans of vitamins.

Compulsive eating habits are a known symptom of vitamin deficiencies. For example patients suffering iron deficiency have been known to crave raw potatoes(high in iron), a craving which goes away after therapy with iron sulfate.

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/0002934382908026

When rats are deficient in Vitamin B1 they have been shown to be able to detect solutions containing it from among a number of other solutions in similar containers and they then drink a lot of it.

http://psycnet.apa.org/index.cfm?fa=search.displayrecord&uid=1938-00237-001

Sodium deficient rats show a specific preference for the taste of sodium salt over other salts.

http://psycnet.apa.org/journals/com/64/1/49/

Though there is some evidence that in some cases deficiencies can induce a more general novel-diet preference: ie you get the urge to eat lots of weird things on the off chance that one of them will contain what your body needs.

http://psycnet.apa.org/journals/com/64/1/49/

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