Feeling full happens in the brain as well as the stomach: Sussex professor explains in new podcast

Professor Martin Yeomans ’ research is helping food producers address the growing problem of obesity. In the latest episode of Impacted , the University of Sussex podcast series about research for real change, Yeomans explains how sharing his research on satiety with industry helps manufacturers create new food products that satisfy consumers and reduce the risk of overeating.

Satiety is more complex than consuming enough nutrients or filling-up with large volumes of food. In the podcast, Prof Yeomans explains how biology underpins psychological phenomena like appetite and addiction. Biological psychology, or psychobiology, helps explain why people like different foods, why they keep eating, and what makes people feel full.

“If you think a product is going to be really filling, and it tastes really filling in your mouth, but it’s actually quite low energy - perhaps as a formulated diet product - then the mismatch between what your brain’s expecting and what your gut experiences can lead to rebound hunger and you overeat afterwards,” said Yeomans.

He explains why studying this interface between body and brain helps us understand motivated behaviours, like feeding and drinking, which in turn can affect the development of treatments for obesity and addiction.

Prof Yeomans has led the Sussex Ingestive Research Group at the University of Sussex’s School of Psychology for over twenty years. The Group conducts research into behavioural nutrition to understand the wide range of interactions people have with food and drink. His team works with food producers to understand how the design and formulation of products affect consumers’ biological and psychological response to the food they buy and consume. Manufacturers use this information to develop food products.

“I know there are several products out there that are formulated based on our design rules. I can’t say what those products are, but I know the research we presented to those companies altered the way they developed new products or reformulated existing products,” said Yeomans. While it’s hard to prove this has improved overall consumer health, Yeomans is confident that the reformulated products ensure consumers are eating few nutrients considered harmful to health than before.

Yeomans has a long history of engaging with the food, beverage and pharmaceutical industries internationally and has attracted over 3 million in grant income at Sussex to date. He also secured funding for a Knowledge Transfer Partnership with Leatherhead Food Research.

With his team he has also developed the Sussex Ingestive Pattern Monitor (SIPM) to analyse the way people eat. SIPM combines bespoke software with a concealed weighing system to monitor how much people consume in parallel with measures of their appetite, mood and response to taste. Data collected using SIPM gives valuable insights into how people experience eating in normal settings, as well as in clinical studies, and is now being used by other universities, major food manufacturers, pharmaceutical companies and hospitals.

Listen to this episode of Impacted on Soundcloud to find out more.

The Impacted podcast showcases how researchers at the University of Sussex are making a real impact on real-world problems. New episodes featuring interviews with Sussex researchers are released every month and you can find all past episodes of Impacted here.

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By: Anna Ford
Last updated: Thursday, 9 January 2020