Do People Subconsciously Seek Nutrients?

October 18th, 2010
ideas, nutrition
I hear people talk about how cravings are signs that your body is seeking something it needs. This ought to be testable. What if we put people on a highly restricted diet that did not have enough of a vital nutrient, say, potassium. The control group would be taking potassium supplements so they would be eating almost the same stuff but still getting the RDA. After people had had a while to become accustomed to and deficient in that nutrient, we would give them some choice over what they ate. The prediction would be that the chosen potassium levels of the experimental group would be higher than those of the control group.

If this worked, we could do something even cooler: use this to search for other possible needed substances. We have a pretty good handle on what people need to be eating, but we don't know totally. If you repeated this experiment with something like rice, beans, and nutritional supplements, then which foods people chose to eat after being slightly less limited in their choices might indicate that those foods had something we were not accounting for.

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