Food Intake and Physiological Regulation: The Means and the End

  • France BellisleEmail author
Living reference work entry


The independent life of animals requires the active regulation of many critical parameters of the internal status of the organism, in other words, their maintenance within a narrow range of defended values. From the early days of research into homeostatic mechanisms, it appeared that food intake (FI) is not one of such parameters. FI is one of many effector mechanisms that contribute to the regulation of several internal parameters, such as glycemia and adipose stores. The science of the last century has clarified the fine machinery of regulatory processes, both at the periphery and in the brain. Beyond the early notion of feedback loops triggering regulatory responses to existing need states, research has documented how efficient regulation rests on learned anticipatory responses, both physiological and behavioral, that are highly plastic and continuously shaped by the experience of environmental contingencies. Studies of eating patterns in free-living humans have revealed the significant influence of numerous factors, among which signals of physiological needs exert a modest role. In spite of the massive influence of environmental and social factors, regulatory adjustments can be detected in the FI of humans, including obese humans. These impressive developments in knowledge have paralleled an unprecedented increase in the frequency of obesity. In this field, knowledge does not equate power. Even in the obesogenic world, FI matches energy needs perfectly in many individuals. Understanding why regulation mechanisms allow body adiposity to drift upward in so many others remains a crucial question.


  1. Bellisle, F. (2014). Meals and snacking, diet quality and energy balance. Physiology & Behavior, 134, 38–43.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bernard, C. (1879). Leçons sur les phénomènes de la vie. Paris: Baillère.Google Scholar
  3. Berridge, K. C., Ho, C. Y., Richard, J. M., & DiFeliciantonio, A. G. (2010). The tempted brain eats: Pleasure and desire circuits in obesity and eating disorders. Brain Research, 1350, 43–64.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Berthoud, H. R. (2011). Metabolic and hedonic drives in the neural control of appetite: Who is the boss? Current Opinion in Neurobiology, 21, 888–896.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Berthoud, H. R., Munzberg, H., & Morrison, C. D. (2017). Blaming the brain for obesity: Integration of hedonic and homeostatic mechanisms. Gastroenterology, 152, 1728–1738.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Blundell, J. E., de Graaf, C., Hulshof, T., Jebb, S., Livingstone, B., Lluch, A., et al. (2010). Appetite control: Methodological aspects of the evaluation of foods. Obesity Reviews, 11, 251–270.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Booth, D. A. (1977). Satiety and appetite are conditioned reactions. Psychosomatic Medicine, 39, 76–81.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Brobeck, J. R. (1948). Food intake as a mechanism of temperature regulation. Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine, 20, 545–552.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  9. Caballero, B. (2019). Humans against obesity: Who will win? Advances in Nutrition, 10, S4–S9. Scholar
  10. Cannon, W. B. (1932). The wisdom of the body (pp. 177–201). New York: W. W. Norton.Google Scholar
  11. Champagne, C. M., Han, H., Bajpeyi, S., Rood, J., Johnson, W. D., Lammi-Keefe, C. J., et al. (2013). Day-to-day variation in food intake and energy expenditure in healthy women: The Dietitian II Study. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 113, 1532–1538.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Chapelot, D., Marmonier, C., Aubert, R., et al. (2004). A role for glucose and insulin preprandial profiles to differentiate meals and snacks. Physiology & Behavior, 80, 721–731.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. De Castro, J. M. (1988). A microregulatory analysis of spontaneous fluid intake by humans: Evidence that the amount of liquid ingested and its timing is mainly governed by feeding. Physiology & Behavior, 43, 705–714.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. De Castro, J. M. (1994). Methodology, correlational analysis, and interpretation of diet diary records of the food and fluid intakes of free-living humans. Appetite, 23, 179–192.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. De Castro, J. M. (1998). Prior day’s intake has macronutrient-specific delayed negative feedback effects on the spontaneous food intake of free-living humans. Journal of Nutrition, 128, 61–67.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. De Castro, J. M. (2010). The control of food intake of free-living humans: Putting the pieces back together. Plysiology & Behavior, 100, 446–453.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. De Castro, J. M., & Brewer, E. M. (1992). The amount eaten by humans is a power function of the number of people present. Physiology & Behavior, 51, 121–125.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. De Castro, J. M., & Elmore, D. K. (1988). Subjective hunger relationship with meal patterns in the spontaneous feeding behavior of humans: Evidence for a causal connection. Physiology & Behavior, 43, 159–165.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. De Castro, J. M., & Plunkett, S. (2002). A general model of intake regulation. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, 26, 581–595.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Edholm, O. G., Fletcher, J. G., Widdowson, E. M., & McCance, R. A. (1955). The energy expenditure and food intake of individual men. British Journal of Nutrition, 9, 286–300.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Hall, K. D., Sacks, G., Chandramohan, D., Chow, C. C., Wang, Y. C., Gortmaker, S. L., et al. (2011). Quantification of the effect of energy imbalance on bodyweight. Lancet, 378, 826–837.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Hall, K. D., Heymsfield, S. B., Kemnitz, J. W., Klein, S., Schoeller, D. A., & Speakman, J. R. (2012). Energy balance and its components: Implications for body weight regulation. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 95, 989–994.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Herman, P. (2015). The social facilitation of eating. A review. Appetite, 86, 61–73.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Higgs, S., & Spetter, M. S. (2018). Cognitive control of eating: The role of memory in appetite and weight gain. Current Obesity Reports, 7, 50–59.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Hoebel, B. G., & Teitelbaum, P. (1966). Hypothalamic control of feeding and self-stimulation. Science, 149, 452–453.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Iwatsuki, K., Ichikawa, R., Uematsu, A., Kitamura, A., Uneyama, H., & Torii, K. (2011). Detecting sweet and umami tastes in the gastrointestinal tract. Acta Physiologica, 204, 169–177. Scholar
  27. Kahneman, D., Schkade, D. A., Fischler, C., Krueger, A. B., & Krilla, A. (2010). The structure of Well-being in two cities: Life satisfaction and experienced happiness in Columbus, Ohio; and Rennes, France. In E. Diener, J. F. Helliwell, & D. Kahneman (Eds.), International differences in well-being (pp. 16–33). Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Kennedy, G. C. (1953). The role of depot fat in the hypothalamic control of food intake in the rat. Proceedings of the Royal Society, B137, 578–592.Google Scholar
  29. Langhans, W. (1996). Metabolic and glucostatic control of feeding. Proceedings of the Nutrition Society, 55, 497–515.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Le Magnen, J. (1971). Advances I studies of the physiological control and regulation of food intake. In E. Stellar, & J.M. Sprague (Eds.). Progress in Physiological Psychology, 4, 204–261.Google Scholar
  31. Le Magnen, J. (1992). Neurobiology of feeding and nutrition. San Diego: Academic.Google Scholar
  32. Mayer, J. (1953). Glucostatic mechanisms of regulation of food intake. New England Journal of Medicine, 249, 13–16.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. McKiernan, F., Hollis, J. H., & Mattes, R. D. (2008a). Short-term dietary compensation in free-living adults. Physiology & Behavior, 18, 975–983.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. McKiernan, F., Houchins, J. A., & Mattes, R. D. (2008b). Relationships between human thirst, hunger, drinking, and feeding. Physiology & Behavior, 94, 700–708.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. McKiernan, F., Hollis, J. H., McCabe, G., & Mattes, R. D. (2009). Thirst-drinking, hunger-eating; tight coupling? Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 109, 486–490.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Pavela, G., Allison, D. B., & Cardel, M. I. (2019). A sweeping highlight of the literature examining social status, eating behavior, and obesity. Appetite, 132, 205–207.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Pavlov, I. (1927). Conditioned reflexes. An investigation of the physiological activity of the cerebral cortex. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  38. Pepino, M. Y., & Mennella, J. A. (2012). Habituation to the pleasure elicited by sweetness in lean and obese women. Appetite, 58, 800–805.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Powley, T. L. (1977). The ventromedial hypothalamic syndrome, satiety, and a cephalic phase hypothesis. Psychology Review, 84, 89–126.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Powley, T. L., & Keesey, R. E. (1970). Relationship of body weight to the lateral hypothalamic feeding syndrome. Journal of Comparative Physiological Psychology, 70, 25–36.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Ramsay, D. S., & Woods, S. C. (2016). Physiological regulation: How it really works. Cell Metabolism, 24, 361–364.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Rodgers, A., Woodward, A., Swinburn, B., & Dietz, W. H. (2018). Prevalence trends tell us what did not precipitate the US obesity epidemic. The Lancet, 3, e162–e163.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  43. Rogers, P. J., & Brunstrom, J. M. (2016). Appetite and energy balancing. Physiology & Behavior, 164, 465–471.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Rolls, B. J., & Hetherington, M. (1989). The role of variety in eating and body weight. In R. Shepherd (Ed.), Psychobiology of human eating and nutritional behavior (pp. 58–84). Sussex: Wiley.Google Scholar
  45. Sclafani, A. (2018). From appetite set point to appetition: 50 years of ingestive behavior research. Physiology & Behavior, 192, 210–217.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Somjen, G. G. (1992). The missing error signal: Regulation beyond negative feedback. News in Physiological Science, 7, 184–185.Google Scholar
  47. Speakman, J. R. (2007). A nonadaptative scenario explaining the genetic predisposition to obesity: The ‘Predation release’ hypothesis. Cell Metabolism, 6, 5–12.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Speakman, J. R., Levitsky, D. A., Allison, D. B., et al. (2011). Set points, settling points and some alternative models: Theoretical options to understand how genes and environments combine to regulate body adiposity. Disease Models & Mechanisms, 4, 733–745.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Stubbs, R., Hughes, D., Johnstone, A., Rowley, E., Reid, C., Elia, M., et al. (2000). The use of visual analogue scales to assess motivation to eat in human subjects: A review of their reliability and validity with an evaluation of new hand-held computerized systems for temporal tracking of appetite ratings. British Journal of Nutrition, 84, 405–415.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Teff, K. L. (2011). How neural mediation of anticipatory and compensatory insulin release helps us tolerate food. Physiology & Behavior, 103, 44–50.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Thaler, J. P., Guyenet, S. J., Dorfman, M. D., & Wisse, B. E. (2013). Hypothalamic inflammation: Marker or mechanism of obesity pathogenesis? Diabetes, 62, 2629–2634.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Woods, S. C. (2009). The control of food intake: Behavioral versus molecular perspectives. Cell Metabolism, 9, 489–498.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Woods, S. C. (2013). Metabolic signals and food intake. Forty years of progress. Appetite, 71, 440–444.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Woods, S. C., May-Zhang, A. A., & Begg, D. P. (2018). How and why do gastrointestinal peptides influence food intake? Physiology & Behavior, 193, 218–222.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Zhang, Y., Proenca, R., Maffei, M., Barone, M., Leopold, I., & Friedman, J. M. (1994). Positional cloning of the mouse obese gene and its human homologue. Nature, 372, 425–432.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Zheng, H., Lenard, N. R., Shin, A. C., & Berthoud, H. R. (2009). Appetite control and energy balance regulation in the modern world: Reward-driven brain overrides repletion signals. International Journal of Obesity, 33, S8–S13.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Nutri Psy ConsultParisFrance

Personalised recommendations