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Digestive, Cognitive and Hedonic Responses to a Meal

hedonisme menjar
The aim of this research was to demonstrate that food intake, in addition to digestive and cognitive responses, also has a hedonic component. We therefore conducted a study with 42 healthy subjects, to whom the response to intake of 240 ml of broth or water was measured. The results showed that both meals induced a feeling of satiation and fullness, but only broth caused a feeling of satisfaction and digestive wellbeing, whereas water had an unpleasant connotation.

Author: iStockphoto/akasya_basim.

The digestive system may induce symptoms if something is going wrong. We hypothesized that the gut can also originate pleasant sensations, and our aim was demonstrate the hedonic component of the digestive response to a meal.
We performed a study in healthy subjects measuring the digestive (gastric relaxation), cognitive (perception of satiation, fullness) and hedonic responses (digestive well-being as satisfaction/dissatisfaction) to a 240 mL probe meal (either 12 kcal broth or water as inert control) ingested at controlled conditions. Experiments were performed under normal conditions and with experimental induction of symptoms (fullness) mimicking a distorted digestive function.

Figure 1. Meal ingestion induces metered digestive responses, as well as conscious sensations; depending on the characteristics of the meal and the digestive response, perception may have a pleasant or unpleasant dimension.  
Meal ingestion induced satiation and fullness; interestingly; with the test meal, but not with the inert control meal, this was associated to satisfaction and a proper gastric relaxation to accommodate meal. Experimental distortion of digestive function induced symptoms, and these symptoms improved after the test meal, but not after the inert meal.
In conclusion, in normal conditions meal ingestion induces satisfaction and a pleasant sensation; furthermore, meal ingestion also improves aversive sensations induced by experimental distortion of digestive function.

Fernando Azpiroz
Department of Medicine


Malagelada, C.; Accarino, A.; Molne, L.; Mendez, S.; Campos, E.; Gonzalez, A.; Malagelada, J. R.; Azpiroz, F. Digestive, cognitive and hedonic responses to a meal. Neurogastroenterology & Motility. 2015, vol. 27, num. 3, p. 389-396. doi: 10.1111/nmo.12506.

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