What is food palatability really? I have heard this phrase for years, but never really sure what it meant nor how it really related to what I was eating (or not eating).
The word palatability and related words have not been used in a consistent way. Palatability may be a property of a food, of the organism eating the food, or both. Investigators have failed to distinguish different possible meanings of the statement: "palatable foods increase intake". This may indicate: (1) a simple observation that some foods stimulate more intake than others, (2) an innate response to the taste of foods that alters appetite, (3) a correlate of food intake that does not itself affect intake, and (4) a link in a causal chain involving prior associations between foods and their postingestive consequences.
Food Palatability. Palatability is the pleasure we derive from food. While most people seek enjoyable food, what they may not realize is that highly palatable foods can drive us to make poor food choices, overconsume calories, and develop unhealthy food habits. Highly palatable foods and beverages trigger cravings that cause us to eat or drink even when we aren't hungry, consuming snacks or beverages for pleasure rather than energy. The sight, smell, or taste of desirable food acts as a cue to eat--most of us have experienced the sensation of suddenly becoming 'hungry' when we encounter certain foods we love. These foods can also cause us to eat more calories at a sitting, for example when dessert appears after a large meal. This is because they have a pleasure appeal that's independent of hunger. When we eat or drink for reasons other than hunger, we're usually overeating.
Stomach Share. In the United States and worldwide, food manufacturers jockey for consumer "stomach share", ratcheting up the palatability and calorie density of food to drive the purchase and consumption of their products. This is one of the reasons for the gradual proliferation of calorie-dense convenience foods and restaurants, which have increased in parallel with our waistlines and now make up the majority of US food spending. 'Hyper-palatable' foods like pizza, pastries, soda, and deep-fried items are particularly fattening because their calorie density makes it easy to overconsume calories without realizing it, and because they encourage us to eat past fullness. Once viewed as occasional treats, these foods are now inexpensive and widely available, leading them to become dietary staples in the US and other affluent countries.
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