The article explores the issue of eating behavior from the context of need-free hedonic motivation. This form of eating behavior hinges on the understanding that people will try and avoid eating those foods that they have no liking for, even as they crave foods that they like. Accordingly, such a hedonic eating behavior could be looked at as a form of reward induced eating. Appetite is thus an indication of hedonic motives, as opposed to homeostatic needs. Studies that revolve around reward driven eating or food reward are crucial because “hedonic hunger” could get the better of homeostatic signals and when this happens, there is the danger of promoting weight gain. Palatability of a given food- the pleasure that one derives form consuming a certain type of food- plays a key role in determining how much of such food is consumed. Given the close association between food palatability and food choices, food palatability often triggers overconsumption, especially when sated, while one’s appetite could also be stimulated by just being exposed to a preferred food. This is a clear indication of the “power of food” that plays a leading role in influencing excessive appetite, thereby undermining weight regulation.
The article further tries to make a clear distinction between food ‘wanting’ and food ‘liking’. In this case, the term ‘liking’ is used with respect to palatability, while ‘wanting’ describes disposition or motivation to eat. Animal studies have proven useful in portraying the distinction between food ‘wanting’ and food ‘liking’. In this case, food liking or the motivation to eat and food dislikes have been shown to be dependent on different neural substrates. Food reward thus entails too elements of namely, both ‘wanting’ and ‘liking’, each with its individual, albeit interrelated, neural correlates. This is a significant finding with the implication that we could split food ‘wanting’ and ‘liking’ under certain circumstances, thus enabling each aspect will then contribute differently and separately to reward driven eating. In an attempt to dissociate food ‘wanting’ and food ‘liking’ in man, different food ‘wanting’ and food ‘liking’ tests and tasks have thus far been developed and adapted. However, researchers have realized that it gets increasingly hard to determine true ‘liking’ separate from true ‘wanting’.
While facial expression has emerged as a suitable tool to determine dislike, it is not appropriate for determining different gradients of food acceptance. Overall, unrestrained eaters and restrained eaters differ with regard to their motivation towards the consumption of palatable, high calorie foods, as well as in their eating behavior. However, it is still not clear yet if this individual variation is due to incentive sensitization. The article notes that incentive sensitization could perhaps help to explain obesity. At the same time, hedonic responses to food are also influenced by intricate interaction of neurotransmitter systems. On this, the findings of various studies on eating behavior and obesity indicate seem to that an irregular opportunity to consume sucrose sensitizes the dopaminergic reward system in a manner similar to how drugs of abuse stimulate neural sensitization.
Animal studies also indicate that neural sensitization could also be stimulated by the consumption of high energy dense and palatable foods. In the absence of sensitization, it becomes increasing harder to establish if task performance is as indication of food ‘wanting’ or food ‘liking’. The article thus concludes by noting the significance of evaluating palatability and appetite when conducting reward eating studies.
The article is a useful addition to the existing body of knowledge on the distinction between food’ liking’ and food ‘wanting’, and the difficulty associated in unraveling this dissimilarity. Studies on food choice, food appetite, and food reward seem to have gained renewed momentum, especially as the prevalence of obesity has been seen to rise in the developed countries and crucially, the developing nations. In light of this, the current article endevours to shed more light on the association between food intake and energy expenditure. While hunger is largely meant to be a physiological need, this article provides compelling evidence that hedonic motives are largely involved in informing human appetite. Eating behavior, or the selection and consumption of foods, is largely a reward driven activity.
Once hedonic hunger supersedes homeostatic signals, this could lead to overconsumption of food, thereby contributing to weight gain. This is a very important assertion with regards to the issue of obesity as it is likely to inform the development of novel techniques meant to curb obesity. Past studies appear to implicate stress as a factor that triggers the reward system in humans, especially with respect to sweet foods. The findings of this article under review are thus significant as they point towards a new direction in trying to explain food consumption cues.
The article notes that while there is a close association between food choices and hedonic responses to food, palatability is also a crucial indicator of food intake and may thus induce overconsumption. This “power of food” is thus a strong area of research worth of further investigation, especially in helping to shed more light on the role played by food reward in as far as eating is concerned. It could also give us much-needed insights into the global prevalence of obesity.
The article has also offered new insights in our understanding of studies on human eating behaviors by noting that there is a strong link between on the one hand, blunted dopamine response and on the other hand, obesity. These findings thus discredit earlier hypotheses of a strong association between sensitized human responses to food cues and obesity. By noting the untenability of various behaviors tests and tasks to determine either true ‘wanting’ or liking, the article, far from suggesting that such debate could be uneventful, it neverthe4less gives us helpful information regarding what could be described as reward eating behavior.
Past studies point towards the key role played by the dopaminergic reward system in regulating hedonic and homeostatic aspects of food intake and appetite. Equally, dietary patterns and feeding status directly impact on the activity of the ECS. The article notes that authenticating ‘wanting’ and ‘liking’ calls for the dissociation of the two elements, even as theory points towards the need for divergence. On this, the article notes that neural sensitization results in exaggerated ‘wanting’ even as ‘liking’ is not increased but is careful not to link this to overeating. In the absence of sensitization, it is difficult to dissociate food ‘wanting’ from food ‘liking’. This in-depth understanding of the dopaminergic reward system in influencing eating behavior as explored by the article could thus hold a novel potential to optimize a balance between nutrient intake and energy expenditure and may thus hold the key to alleviating cases of obesity.
Havermans, R. C. (2011). ‘‘You Say it’s Liking, I Say it’s Wanting …’’. On the difficulty of
disentangling food reward in man. Appetite, 57(1), 286-294.