The Role of Taste in Regulating Eating Habits: Insights from New Research

Our sense of taste helps regulate the pace of our eating, and understanding this mechanism may lead to new approaches for weight loss.


Professor Zachary Knight, a scientist researching hunger and weight control, has highlighted how our brains signal that we’ve had enough to eat. When people start feeling full, their eating pace slows down. For decades, scientists believed this change in eating speed was driven solely by signals from the stomach and intestines to the brain. However, a new study from Professor Knight’s lab at UC San Francisco reveals another process at work that begins as soon as food is tasted.


This previously unknown process was difficult to observe because it involves brain activity deep in the brainstem. Truong Ly, a graduate student in Professor Knight’s lab, developed new techniques that allowed for the monitoring of these neurons’ activity in mice for the first time.

The study discovered two parallel pathways that control eating: one that regulates the speed of eating and another that limits the quantity consumed. The taste of food activates the first pathway. Although it might seem counterintuitive, as people typically want to eat more food that tastes good, the sensation of taste also unconsciously paces eating.


Previously, scientists believed this first pathway involved signals from the gut. However, the study indicates that these signals can be overridden by the brain’s response to taste receptors in the mouth, signaling “there’s food here.” Further research is underway to understand how this sensory filtering works, to develop new strategies for treating obesity.


The second pathway involves neurons that release the hormone GLP-1, which creates a long-lasting feeling of fullness. New obesity drugs, such as Ozempic and Mounjaro, already mimic GLP-1 activity. Professor Knight’s team is working to understand how this prolonged satiety operates, aiming to deepen understanding of these drugs and potentially identify new methods for weight control.

We have discussed satiety and its correlation to obesity in another blog titled ‘Is our perception of obesity wrong?’.


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