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Under appetite (from the Latin. Appetitus cibi "desire for food" of appetere : desire, demand) is defined as a mental condition characterized by the relish embossed desire something specific to eat, stands out. As a psychological phenomenon , it differs from the primarily physiological feeling of hunger . The opposite of an appetite for food is disgust .

Neurobiology of appetite

In the hunger center of the lateral hypothalamus, neurohormones , especially serotonin , regulate hunger , while satiety hormones such as cholecystokinin in the satiety center in the ventromedial nuclei of the hypothalamus control satiety . The appetite, on the other hand, arises in the limbic system .

Due to the appetite, it is possible to want to (continue) to eat, even if one is not (anymore) hungry, because the appetite is not controlled by the hunger center in the hypothalamus. For the same reason, it is also possible not to want to eat a certain food despite being hungry.

Appetite versus hunger

The real feeling of hunger ranges from uncomfortable to painful and far less picky than appetite: Hunger is the need to eat something in order to feel full . Feelings of hunger are triggered by contractions of the empty stomach , but above all by a drop in the glucose level and changes in the thermal and lipid metabolism .

Not so with appetite: As a cognitive- motivational phenomenon, it is strongly influenced by sensory perception . Sensory factors such as appearance, smell , taste , temperature and consistency of the food play an important role here.

In addition, a diverse range of food, for example at a buffet , helps to stimulate the appetite, regardless of satiety. For many people, appetite contributes to the fact that they eat significantly more than would be necessary to satisfy themselves.

Medical rating

Appetite is also interpreted by some medical professionals as the body's craving for certain nutrients to be supplied through certain foods.

Appetite for normally inedible substances is considered a behavioral or eating disorder and is called pica syndrome in medicine .

Food preferences

The taste preference for sweet is innate, as is the aversion to the bitter taste . Even breast milk tastes slightly sweet and may contribute to a lifelong fondness for sweets and Fatty. Salty taste can be recognized by infants from the fourth month of life and is then preferred. In addition, food preferences are acquired socially and influenced culturally, for example for bitter-tasting luxury foods such as beer and coffee . The preference for chocolate is also not the same in every country. In the USA and in German-speaking countries, chocolate is extremely popular with all age groups, whereas in Spain this sweetness plays a far less important role. It is controversial whether sweeteners cause an increased insulin concentration in the blood and thus a craving for sweets ( see: Blundell / Hill hypothesis on the appetite-increasing effect of sweeteners ).

Cravings for unusual food combinations such as herring with jam occur, for example, in women during pregnancy , whereby the appetite is influenced by the hormonal changes. Seizures of hunger also have less to do with hunger than with psychologically induced cravings.

The umami flavor was first named by Japanese researchers in 1908 and is obtained from the food additive sodium glutamate . However, this taste also occurs naturally in a weaker form in foods that contain protein , including breast milk. The preference for umami is therefore now considered to be innate in research; the food industry only uses this appetite by seasoning various products accordingly.

The smell and color of food has also been shown to influence appetite and arouse certain positive or negative associations . If known foods are colored differently, most people's appetite for them diminishes. For example, blue does not create a great appetite in most foods and is therefore rarely used as an artificial color . Experiments with gummy bears have shown that the different colors are associated with different aromas - with blindfolded eyes, however, the test persons could not detect any differences in taste.

Unfamiliar foods generally trigger less appetite than familiar ones. There are two reasons for this: The taste memory when looking at a familiar dish causes the vegetative nervous system to send impulses that stimulate the production of saliva and gastric juice. There is also an instinctive response called neophobia , which is believed to be based on the fact that ingesting new, unfamiliar foods is risky because unfamiliar foods can be toxic. The neophobia and the associated refusal to eat can, however, be changed through exposure, i.e. through experience with new food.

The consistency of the food is essential for the desire to eat. Characteristics such as “slimy”, “mushy” or sticky often produced feelings of disgust in the participants in a corresponding study.


A drug that suppresses hunger for hours by increasing the release of the hormone serotonin is, contrary to the colloquial term, not an appetite suppressant , but a de facto hunger suppressant .

In German there are many regional and dialectal expressions for having an appetite for something. How to speak:

Web links

Wiktionary: Appetit  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Birch, LL (1999). Development of food preferences. Annual Review of Nutrition, 19 , 41-62
  2. a b Wolfgang Meierhof: Questions of Taste ( Memento of March 17, 2007 in the Internet Archive ) (PDF; 77 kB)
  3. Rolf Degen: The high from gluttony. In: Tabula. 01/2002 ( Memento from February 1, 2012 in the Internet Archive )
  4. a b Debinet: Eating Behavior ( Memento from December 17, 2006 in the Internet Archive )
  5. Ogden, J .: The psychology of eating. From healthy to disordered behavior . Blackwell, 2003, ISBN 0-631-23374-1
  6. Why gruel has such a bad reputation. On: from November 30, 2005.