The endocrinology of food intake

Nat Rev Endocrinol. 2013 Oct;9(10):584-97. doi: 10.1038/nrendo.2013.136. Epub 2013 Jul 23.


Many questions must be considered with regard to consuming food, including when to eat, what to eat and how much to eat. Although eating is often thought to be a homeostatic behaviour, little evidence exists to suggest that eating is an automatic response to an acute shortage of energy. Instead, food intake can be considered as an integrated response over a prolonged period of time that maintains the levels of energy stored in adipocytes. When we eat is generally determined by habit, convenience or opportunity rather than need, and meals are preceded by a neurally-controlled coordinated secretion of numerous hormones that prime the digestive system for the anticipated caloric load. How much we eat is determined by satiation hormones that are secreted in response to ingested nutrients, and these signals are in turn modified by adiposity hormones that indicate the fat content of the body. In addition, many nonhomeostatic factors, including stress, learning, palatability and social influences, interact with other controllers of food intake. If a choice of food is available, what we eat is based on pleasure and past experience. This article reviews the hormones that mediate and influence these processes.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cholecystokinin / metabolism
  • Eating / physiology*
  • Endocrinology / methods*
  • Glucagon-Like Peptide 1 / metabolism
  • Humans


  • Glucagon-Like Peptide 1
  • Cholecystokinin