The Meal as the Functional Unit of Eating Behavior
The controls of eating are myriad, ranging from innate systemic reflexes to highly individuated emotional and cognitive responses that have little to do with the sensory or nutritional aspects of food. Because eating occurs in discrete bouts, or meals, there are 3 crucial behavioral transitions: onset of eating at the beginning of the meal, maintenance of eating during the meal, and the termination of eating at the end of the meal. All of the disparate influences on eating ultimately devolve on the controls of these processes. As a consequence, any relation between the regulation of energy balance and eating is an aspect of the physiologic control of individual meals. Furthermore, because the basic physiologic controls of eating are present in humans as well as animals, they may, if appropriately manipulated, provide therapeutic levers for treating clinically disordered eating -- even if they are not part of the disorder's etiology.
Medscape General Medicine. 1998;1(3) © 1998
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