“Dessert stomach” is a real thing

December 5, 2023 (Last Updated: December 4, 2023)
dessert stomach

Have you ever found yourself indulging in a meal, only to declare, “I’m too full for dessert,” yet miraculously find room for that tempting slice of cake or scoop of ice cream? Welcome to the mysterious world of the dessert stomach, a phenomenon that has baffled food enthusiasts and scientists alike.

Research conducted by Dr. Barbara Rolls at the Penn State University Laboratory for the Study of Human Ingestive Behavior reveals that our ability to make room for dessert is linked to a fascinating concept called sensory-specific satiety. This refers to the brain’s response to the taste, appearance, smell, and texture of the food we consume. As we eat, chemicals stimulate the brain’s reward center, producing pleasurable feelings. However, these feelings diminish with continued consumption of the same food.

In an experiment where participants were served either a four-course meal of the same dish or four different dishes, those with variety consumed around 60% more calories. Dr. Rolls suggests that our penchant for variety is an evolutionary tactic, ensuring we maintain a diverse and nutrient-rich diet.

Vox conducted a similar experiment, revealing a sharp drop in interest when participants were served the same dish as both the main course and dessert. However, when the dessert was a different food, such as ice cream, participants consumed three times more, highlighting the brain’s preference for variety.

So, the next time you question the existence of your dessert stomach, know that it’s the result of a complex interplay of sensory-specific satiety and the brain’s reward system, reminding us that variety truly is the spice of life – especially when it comes to indulging in a sweet treat after a satisfying meal.

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Feature image: Pexels

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