Eating Satisfaction

The body systems that regulate appetite, hunger and satiety are quite complex.
Eating Satisfaction

Food does a lot more than provide nutrients. The good feeling that comes from a satisfying meal, called satiety, is one of life's simple pleasures. But the body systems that regulate appetite, hunger and satiety are quite complex.

Factors Affecting Satiety
There are a number of hormones and metabolic systems involved in appetite regulation. The body's systems are primarily designed to guard against starvation, leaving weaker systems in place to resist overeating and weight gain.1

In addition to the internal systems that regulate hunger and satiety cues, environment and eating habits also play a role. For example, being surrounded by appealing food stimulates the appetite, and the body becomes conditioned to eating meals and snacks at familiar times. The physical cues that produce satiety can be overridden by the taste and texture of desirable foods. In addition, how the body responds to a meal is influenced by things like palatability and energy density.2

The influence of palatability on appetite control has been investigated in several studies. Not surprisingly, there is a consistent finding that the more palatable the meal, the more food is eaten. Several studies have also looked at how the sensory aspects of food, such as taste, smell and texture, affect eating satisfaction. The results for these studies have been mixed, with some finding an influence on eating satisfaction and others not. Still other research has found that increasing the variety of foods eaten in a meal increases overall food (and calorie) intake and, at least in the short- to medium-term, leads to weight gain.3

It has been suggested that the satiating power of the macronutrients follows a hierarchy where protein > carbohydrate > fat. However, the scientific evidence for this is limited. There are studies that indicate that the macronutrient composition does not impact satiety4 and others that show the opposite. A June 2005 study found that when protein replaced fat in meals containing the same number of calories, satiety was significantly increased.5 Carbohydrates, as a macronutrient, encompass thousands of foods – from sugar to wheat germ. The effect of carbohydrates on eating satisfaction may vary. For example, it appears that whole grains provide greater eating satisfaction than refined grains.6

Satiety and Weight Loss
Strong feelings of satiety can extend the time between eating meals and the amount of food needed to ease hunger. This, in turn, can reduce the intake of calories—resulting in weight loss. In the June 2005 study that looked at increasing the percentage of calories from protein, the participants chose to eat less food, and this resulted in a weight loss.

view footnotes

The Weight Watchers Approach:

Both of the Weight Watchers food plans, along with the Good Health Guidelines, promote food choices that enhance eating satisfaction. With a focus on choosing palatable foods that include whole grains and low-fat protein sources, satiety is achieved without a lot of calories.


Other Science Library Topics:

Calories, Metabolism and Body Weight

Emotional Eating


1Blundell JE, King NA. Overconsumption as a cause of weight gain: behavioural-physiological interactions in the control of food intake (appetite). Ciba Found Symp. 1996;201:138-54.

2Gerstein DE, Woodward-Lopez G, Evans AE, Kelsey K, Drewnowski A. Clarifying concepts about macronutrients' effects on satiation and satiety. J Am Diet Assoc. 104(7):1151-3, 2004.

3Sorensen LB, Moller P, Flint A, Martens M, Raben A. Effect of sensory perception of foods on appetite and food intake: a review of studies on humans. Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord. 2003 Oct;27(10):1152-66.

4Raben A, Agerholm-Larsen L, Flint A, Holst JJ, Astrup A. Meals with similar energy densities but rich in protein, fat, carbohydrate, or alcohol have different effects on energy expenditure and substrate metabolism but not on appetite and energy intake. Am J Clin Nutr. 2003 Jan;77(1):91-100.

5Weigle DS, Breen PA. A high-protein diet induces sustained reduction in appetite, ad libitum caloric intake, and body weight despite compensatory changes in diurnal plasma leptin and ghrelin concentrations. Am J Clin Nutr. 2005;82:41-48.

6Koh-Banerjee P, Rimm EB. Whole grain consumption and weight gain: a review of the epidemiological evidence, potential mechanisms and opportunities for future research. Nutr Soc. 62(1):25-9, 2003.