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Adv Nutr. 2014 Nov 14;5(6):851-9. doi: 10.3945/an.114.007120. Print 2014 Nov.

Variety, palatability, and obesity.

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Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, University College London, London, United Kingdom
Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, University College London, London, United Kingdom.


Among the key characteristics of the Western obesogenic food environment is a highly palatable and varied food supply. Laboratory investigations of eating behavior in both humans and animals established key roles for palatability and variety in stimulating appetite, delaying satiety, and promoting excessive energy intake. There is a robust effect of food palatability and variety on short-term food intake, and increased variety and palatability also cause weight gain in animal models. However, laboratory paradigms do not replicate the complexities of eating in a natural setting, and there is a shortage of evidence to estimate the magnitude of effects on weight in humans. There are substantial individual differences in susceptibility to the palatability effect and this may be a key determinant in individual vulnerability to weight gain. The understanding of pathways through which palatability and variety can affect eating is advancing, and epidemiologic and intervention studies are needed to translate laboratory findings into applications in public health or clinical domains, and to establish whether there is a role for greater regulation of the food environment in tackling increases in obesity.

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