Hunger and thirst: issues in measurement and prediction of eating and drinking

Physiol Behav. 2010 Apr 26;100(1):22-32. doi: 10.1016/j.physbeh.2009.12.026. Epub 2010 Jan 11.


Associations between hunger and eating and between thirst and drinking are generally weak. This stems, in part, from limitations in the measurement of these sensations which generally rely on temporal, motivational, metabolic and/or self-reported descriptive indices. Each is critically reviewed. Also problematic is the fact that the deterministic depletion-repletion concept of ingestive behavior fails to account for influences of a multitude of contravening cognitive, social, sensory and logistical factors. Although hunger and thirst serve some parallel purposes, sharp distinctions are also present with health implications. Of particular note are the observations that thirst ratings are higher and more stable over the day compared to hunger and thirst may be more motivating to drink than hunger is to eat. Coupling these observations with evidence that beverages have limited satiety value, they pose particular challenges and opportunities. Beverages can facilitate the delivery of nutrients to those desiring or requiring them, but also to those where they are not desired or required. The benefits and risks are a function of their use rather than their inherent properties.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Drinking Behavior / physiology
  • Drinking*
  • Eating*
  • Feeding Behavior / physiology
  • Feeding Behavior / psychology
  • Humans
  • Hunger / physiology*
  • Models, Biological
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Social Behavior
  • Thirst / physiology*