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Appetite. 2010 Feb;54(1):23-9. doi: 10.1016/j.appet.2009.09.001. Epub 2009 Sep 16.

What constitutes food variety? Stimulus specificity of food.

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Department of Pediatrics, School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, University at Buffalo, Buffalo, New York 14214-3000, USA.


Variety is a major influence of energy intake, but it is not known how much foods have to vary to influence eating. Using a stimulus specificity habituation paradigm we assessed the influence of varying the texture and appearance of nutritionally identical foods on responding for food and energy intake, and whether sensitization, or an increase in responding prior to habituation, was related to the rate of habituation or recovery of responding. Children responded for elbow macaroni and cheese until they habituated, then were provided either more elbow macaroni and cheese, spiral macaroni and cheese, or chicken nuggets. Children provided chicken nuggets or spiral macaroni and cheese recovered responding in comparison to more elbow macaroni and cheese. Children who sensitized showed slower habituation and consumed more food and more energy than those who did not sensitize, but did not differ in recovery of responding to the chicken nuggets or spiral macaroni and cheese. Results show small variations in food characteristics lead to recovery of responding and increased intake after children have habituated.

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