The eating paradox: how we tolerate food

Psychol Rev. 1991 Oct;98(4):488-505. doi: 10.1037/0033-295x.98.4.488.


It is hypothesized that food, which is certainly a necessary commodity with powerful positive reinforcing qualities, also provides a potential threat to organisms, including humans. The act of eating, although necessary for the provision of energy, is a particularly disruptive event in a homeostatic sense. Just as humans learn responses to help them tolerate the administration of dangerous drugs, so do they learn to make anticipatory responses that help minimize the impact of meals on the body, to limit the amount of food consumed within any individual meal, to recruit several parts of the protective stress-response system while meals are being processed, and to limit postprandial behaviors so as to minimize the possibility of disrupting homeostatic systems even more. It is further hypothesized that defenses against eating too much may become activated inappropriately and contribute to clinical problems such as reactive hypoglycemia.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Blood Glucose / metabolism
  • Conditioning, Classical / physiology
  • Eating / physiology*
  • Energy Metabolism / physiology*
  • Homeostasis / physiology
  • Humans
  • Insulin / blood
  • Motivation*
  • Psychophysiology
  • Satiety Response / physiology*
  • Sympathetic Nervous System / physiology


  • Blood Glucose
  • Insulin