Sensory and metabolic drivers of eating behaviour

This research area focuses on the effects of sensory (i.e. appearance, taste, smell, texture) and nutritional properties (i.e. fibres, protein, fat) of food on food choice, food intake and eating behaviour. An important research question is how sensory signals such as taste, smell and mouthfeel get meaning in relation to their psychological (affective and cognitive) and metabolic (satiation, satiety) consequences.

The research within the Division of Human Nutrition includes various topical issues that addresses the impact of sensory and metabolic signals on the scientifically and societal relevant topics of eating behaviour, health and well-being. This includes a strong focus on the satiating effect of nutritional properties of food and an extensive part of work on the role of taste in smell in the formation of food preferences and in the regulation of energy intake. Furthermore, the bio-psychological determinants of eating appetite regulation such as affective and cognitive determinants of food choice and eating behavior form an important area of research.

Research topics

Oral and gastric factors in satiation and satiety

Effects of sensory and nutritional properties of food on satiation and satiety, for example different types of fibres, protein and low energy sweeteners. The satiety work orients on oral and gastric factors affecting satiety and is related to large series of studies on the role of taste and smell in the regulation of energy intake. Oral factors include oral exposure time (eating rate), bite size, and orosensory processing (taste, texture) on satiation and satiety. Gastric factors include effects of gastric fill, gastric emptying, biomarkers (hormones, gut peptides) and subjective feelings of hunger and satiety.

Food preferences in different target populations

Sensory perceptions and the formation of food preferences in different target populations, such as elderly, cancer patients (effect of chemotherapy) and infants and toddlers (fruits and vegetables). Food preferences and healthy) dietary habits are formed early in life and the development of food preferences and the learning mechanisms involved are studied in babies, toddlers and infants with a focus on vegetable acceptance and consumption. On the other side of the spectrum the growth of a heterogeneous group of seniors is an interesting demographic for studying the process of optimizing (nutritional) food products that meet the wishes and nutritional needs of this group. 

Cognitive and affective determinants of food choice

The role of cognition (thoughts, beliefs, associations) and emotions in food reward and sensory learning. Food choice and eating behaviour in humans is highly complex and depends on more than sensory and nutritional properties of foods. This work seeks to go beyond sensory liking and aims to determine the affective and cognitive determinants of food choice and eating behavior, the interactions of cognitive and affective associations/expectations with foods and how these affect sensory perception and hedonic evaluation of foods. The research is carried out in collaboration with the Marketing and Consumer Behavior group and the Consumer Science group from the Restaurant of the Future.

Current key projects