You may have already noticed: During the holidays, a multi-course meal is a popular option or you can stick to helping yourself to the buffet. Another dessert? Why not. Why do we suddenly have more “space” during the holidays? HLN science journalist Martin Peters explains.
It will come as no surprise to anyone that we have to regularly unbutton our pants during the holidays. Why do we continue to gorge on food when there is always room for dessert? “This has to do with our specific sensory satiety,” says Martin. “This sensory phenomenon causes your level of satisfaction to decrease when you continue to eat one type of food.”
Conversely, it also means that your appetite increases again when you are presented with a new taste or dish. “It shows how important physical stimuli are in stimulating your appetite. And that what you eat and your hunger are closely linked.
The dangerous side? You can really overeat in this case
You can already notice the process of sensory satiety when eating a single meal. It will taste good at first. But halfway through it tastes a little less. “Even people with amnesia still feel this specific sensory satiety, even if they forget whether they have just eaten or not,” explains Martin. “In other words, if you eat the same meals regularly, you will find them less tasty.”
However, you can outperform the regimen by making small changes to your daily diet. For example, a study conducted in the 1980s showed that participants' appetites suddenly returned when they were offered yellow candy, after they had had enough of red candy.
A recent study showed the same thing, but with herbs instead of colors. “Study subjects were allowed to eat French fries until they were ‘full.’ When no one wanted more, we added ketchup to our Belgian specialty. And you guessed it: participants spontaneously began filling their plates again.”
As beneficial as this inner feeling of satiety is, there is also a dangerous side to the story. With a wide range of accessible dishes full of new flavors and spices, specific sensory satiety can actually encourage overeating. Just think how you would stuff yourself in a food court with different food stalls or in a buffet or multi-course meal.
All the food at the buffet is new, so you are always interested in new flavours. This also explains why, after all those snacks and croquettes, there's still a place for that dessert. So it is up to us to make sure that our eyes are not bigger than our stomach.
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