How many calories are on our plate? Expected fullness, not liking, determines meal-size selection

Obesity (Silver Spring). 2009 Oct;17(10):1884-90. doi: 10.1038/oby.2009.201. Epub 2009 Jun 18.


The availability of highly palatable food is thought to stimulate the selection of larger meals (leading to weight gain and obesity). In this article, we explore aspects of this proposition. Specifically, we scrutinize two basic assumptions: (i) palatable energy-dense foods are more rewarding (desired), and (ii) these palatable foods are selected in relatively larger portions. In combination with palatability, we also consider the relative role for "expected satiation"-the extent to which a food is expected to deliver satiation. A total of 17 commonly consumed foods were assessed by 28 normal-weight participants at lunchtime. Critically, our measure of food reward and expected satiation involves comparisons between foods based on equicaloric portions. When assessed in this way, we find that food reward and ideal portion sizes (in kcal) are both closely associated with expected satiation, but not with "expected liking." Low expected satiation (not expected liking) predicts the selection of large portion sizes (in kcal) and foods with this characteristic tend to be more energy dense and are regarded as less (not more) rewarding (when compared calorie for calorie). Together, these findings challenge the role of palatability in meal-size selection and they highlight the importance of expected satiation, a "nonaffective" component of food reward.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Body Mass Index
  • Eating / physiology*
  • Eating / psychology
  • Feeding Behavior / physiology
  • Feeding Behavior / psychology
  • Female
  • Food Preferences / physiology
  • Food Preferences / psychology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Satiation / physiology*
  • Taste / physiology*
  • Young Adult