Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology

Role of gut nutrient sensing in stimulating appetite and conditioning food preferences

Anthony Sclafani, Karen Ackroff

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The discovery of taste and nutrient receptors (chemosensors) in the gut has led to intensive research on their functions. Whereas oral sugar, fat, and umami taste receptors stimulate nutrient appetite, these and other chemosensors in the gut have been linked to digestive, metabolic, and satiating effects that influence nutrient utilization and inhibit appetite. Gut chemosensors may have an additional function as well: to provide positive feedback signals that condition food preferences and stimulate appetite. The postoral stimulatory actions of nutrients are documented by flavor preference conditioning and appetite stimulation produced by gastric and intestinal infusions of carbohydrate, fat, and protein. Recent findings suggest an upper intestinal site of action, although postabsorptive nutrient actions may contribute to flavor preference learning. The gut chemosensors that generate nutrient conditioning signals remain to be identified; some have been excluded, including sweet (T1R3) and fatty acid (CD36) sensors. The gut-brain signaling pathways (neural, hormonal) are incompletely understood, although vagal afferents are implicated in glutamate conditioning but not carbohydrate or fat conditioning. Brain dopamine reward systems are involved in postoral carbohydrate and fat conditioning but less is known about the reward systems mediating protein/glutamate conditioning. Continued research on the postoral stimulatory actions of nutrients may enhance our understanding of human food preference learning.

  • conditioned flavor acceptance and preference
  • taste receptors
  • gut nutrient sensors
  • carbohydrate
  • fat
  • protein
  • intragastric infusion
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