Taste and Fullness

Reader Stacey asks if it’s really true that it’s the sense of taste that cues the brain to tell us if we’ve had enough to eat. Staci, I was more confident of my answer before I found out that there was a full-on satiation researcher following this conversation (see the comments on the below post). So expect to see a lot more qualifiers and far fewer declarative sentences moving ahead. But yes, that’s at least partly true.

As I understand it, it’s our umami sensors that bear much of that burden. Umami is stimulated primarily by glutamic acid, a so-called proteinogenic amino acid, which is to say, an amino acid that’s used as a building block of protein molecules. Thus it’s found in all sorts of protein-rich foods like meat, milk and cheese, which by no coincidence whatsoever are the types of foods that most people associate with a sense of satiety or “fullness.”

Stimulate umami receptors and feelings of satiety increase. This is what the food additive MSG (monosodium glutamate, the sodium salt of glutamic acid) does: it gives people who eat it that happy satisfied feeling. Or so I, er…understand.

4 thoughts on “Taste and Fullness”

  1. No need to be afraid of me! I’m quite harmless, really 🙂

    You are absolutely correct-taste is very important to signal satiation. I love that you made the point about why specific foods are so satisfying. I think this is a lot of why diets which encourage you to eat everything, but in small quantities, will always be more successful-you’ll trigger satiation a lot faster with a small piece of cheese than with a ton of celery.

    Also, it’s still not understood what plays the biggest role in shifting the balance between being hungry and feeling full. Anecdotally speaking, I would suspect that taste likely plays a bigger role than the stomach.

    Great write-up, I’m thoroughly enjoying this series. I’ve had so many spin-off thoughts from these posts that it’s hard not to write comments 5 times as long. A++ on reader engagement!

    1. I wish you would write comments five times as long, Faith! You certainly know more about this subject that any of the inmates in this particular asylum. And when I say “inmates” I mean “me.”

      I have no doubt Joe Pastry readers would be fascinated by what you have to say if you feel like going on about it.

      – Joe

  2. I’m enjoying both your (Joe) writing AND the comments! So very interesting 🙂

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