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In normal usage the term appetite designates a desire for food and the capacity to enjoy it. Without straining its meaning, however, it can signify almost any desire, for example, an appetite for hard work or for pleasure. The word derives from the Latin appetitus, which means a seeking for something. As used in scholastic philosophy, appetite is defined as the inclination and order of a thing toward the good, and designates the element in the nature of things whereby they have or develop tendencies toward objects that benefit them.

Thomistic Concept of Appetite

In Thomistic philosophy, appetite in the strict sense specifies the capacity of a thing to seek its good; when used more broadly, it includes the actual seeking as well. Appetite thus is both the fundamental power to seek and the actual exercise of that power. Psychologically, this concept is closely connected with a number of other concepts, for example, orexis, conation, urge, drive, feeling, emotion, affectivity and passion. Orexis is the Aristotelian term for appetite, sometimes signifying appetite in general and at other times the power of the will. Conation, urge and drive are terms that are used almost interchangeably to indicate the forceful or impulsive aspect of appetites. feeling and affectivity are generally used to indicate the felt quality connected with appetitive activity. Emotion and passion can be used for both the feeling aspect and the drive aspect of appetites. Passion in current usage often signifies a more intense emotion; in scholastic use, it did not have this connotation.

In the philosophy of St. thomas aquinas and among scholastics generally, appetite is attributed to all beings, from God, who has Will, to primary matter, which has an appetite for substantial form. The classical expression of this idea is: An inclination follows every form (Summa theologiae 1a2ae, 8.1), for everything is either on account of itself or on account of another and what is on account of itself seeks itself, while what is on account of another seeks that other. Otherwise the parts of the universe are absurd, as being ordered to purposes but not effectively equipped to attain them (see final causality; teleology).


The first division of appetite is into natural and elicited appetites. Because things exist as they are and tend to continue in existence for a while and because they operate as they ought to operate, they are said to have a natural appetite to exist and to operate. Such a natural appetite is not conceived as a reality in a thing distinct from its nature; it is rather the nature itself conceived in terms of tendency to be and to operate.

Elicited appetites are the appetites aroused by cognitive acts and they are considered to be distinct parts of the nature of a cognitive being. The evidence for elicited appetites is firstly our human experience and secondly our observation of other animals. We feel impulses and affects aroused in ourselves by cognitive acts toward various objects and these impel us to action toward these objects; we see, moreover, that animals seem to act the same way and are furnished with the same kind of organs that serve us. We conclude, then, that cognitive beings are in fact equipped with appetites. Moreover, it would be absurd if the case were otherwise, for a knowing being who was absolutely unable to be moved by what he came to know would be frustrated; his knowledge would be futile. Therefore knowing beings ought to have the capacity to be moved by objects as known and such a capacity would be, by definition, an elicited appetite.

Therefore, since there are appetites aroused by cognitive acts, there will be at least as many distinct kinds of elicited appetite as there are distinct orders of knowledge (ST 1a, 80.1). Scholastics, dividing knowledge basically into sense knowledge and intellectual knowledge, divide appetite into sensitive appetites and the will, which is the appetite of the intellective part.


By definition, a sensitive appetite is a capacity to be aroused by a concrete object perceived through the senses. It is, therefore, an operative power, that is, a power to respond and to react. This response or reaction on the part of the possessor of the appetite has a two fold moment. First of all, it is a kind of passivity, by which the possessor is changed or moved by the impact of the object sensed. Secondly, since this change is of the nature of a tension produced in the possessor, an inclination to action follows, for the purpose of relieving the tension. Hence appetites tend to provoke action. The actions are designed to obtain or avoid the object that originally aroused the appetite: to obtain it if it is good, or to avoid it if it is evil. Since avoiding evil is itself good, one can define the appetite as ordered simply to the good, either directly or indirectly.

Organic changes. Hence the sense appetites arise from the sense knowledge that elicits them, involve a physical change in the organism, and result in action. The physical change may be greater or less, but it is always present. Medieval scholastics spoke of such changes as the rising of the blood around the heart in anger, the withdrawal of the blood toward the bowels in fear and so on. Modern physiology recognizes changes in the circulatory, respiratory, glandular and other systems, as component parts of emotional changes. The basic organs of appetitive movement seem to be the hypothalamus in the brain and perhaps parts of the rhinencephalon, for experiments stimulating these organs of the brain with electric currents result in reaction patterns of the emotive or motivational order [see J. Olds, "Pleasure Centers in the Brain," Scientific American 195 (October 1956) 105116]. The autonomic nervous system that stimulates visceral, glandular and other somatic changes in emotional reactions is the connecting link between the brain centers of sensitive appetite and the other corporeal reactions involved.

Concupiscible vs. irascible appetites. Thomistic psychology posits two sensitive appetites, the concupiscible and the irascible. The arguments for this division run thus: Some passions in the organism are aroused on the basis of simple pleasure and pain, as it seeks out what is pleasing physically and avoids what feels injurious. These reactions constitute the operations of one appetite, the concupiscible, whose ultimate object is defined as the simple, sensitive good. But other emotional reactions are based not simply on pleasure and pain. Thus we experience inclinations impelling us toward things that are hard or difficult to attain, or we find emotional responses impelling us to reject or despair of good objects. These appetitive activities are assigned to a second sensitive appetite, called the irascible appetite, whose object is the difficult or arduous sense good.

Of the two, the basic appetite is the concupiscible. The irascible appetite is an emergency appetite, aroused when simple movements toward a sensible good or away from a sensible evil are impeded by some obstacle. The irascible appetite is aroused precisely to overcome the obstacle. When it is overcome, the irascible appetite subsides and the simple concupiscible appetite functions alone. For example, love is a simple concupiscible movement toward a good or pleasant object and when the object is here and now attainable, the love for it generates an actual desire. If the object can be obtained, the desire comes to fruition in joy or delight. This all occurs in the concupiscible appetite. But if, when desire is aroused, a sudden obstacle impedes the attainment of the good, then anger, an irascible passion, will perhaps be stirred up against the impediment. Anger urges toward overcoming or destroying it; once this is done, nothing prevents obtaining the object and so there is a return to delight or joy. Or again, one might be faced with an object he dislikes, feel an aversion toward it and hence avoid itall movements of the concupiscible appetite. If he can avoid it, he feels contentment or joy. But if some circumstance suddenly appears making it seem impossible to avoid the disliked object, his aversion takes on an emergency quality; it turns into fear, another irascible passion and under the stimulus of fear he reacts more energetically to escape the evil. If he does escape it, he again feels joy.

Acts of the sense appetites. The various actions of the sense appetites, which are called the passions or emotions, are divided in Thomistic psychology into 11 general categories, six in the concupiscible appetite and five in the irascible appetite. love, the first passion of the concupiscible appetite, is the fundamental passion underlying all others. Love is defined, in an abstract way, as the simple tendency toward a good thing. desire, which arises from love, is a tendency toward a good thing that is not yet possessed but is presently possessible. joy follows from desire when the good thing is actually possessed. Hate, the opposite of love, is the turning away from an evil thing. Aversion arises from hate, as an actual repugnance to an evil thing presenting itself. Sorrow follows after aversion, if the evil thing actually afflicts us. hope is the name given to the first of the irascible appetites. It is the vehement seeking of a good object that is hard to obtain. courage is the energetic attack on an evil that is hard to overcome. Despair is the giving up of a good object because of difficulties, and fear is the urgent avoidance of an evil that is hard to escape. Anger, finally, is the movement toward an evil that is hard to overcome for the sake of destroying it. All movements of passion, with their various modalities and mixtures and shades of difference, can be comprised without great difficulty under these 11 basic categories.


The will is the rational or intellectual appetite in man, that is, the appetite that seeks goods as they are perceived by the power of intellect. As the intellect is the supreme cognitive power in man, so the will is the supreme appetite in man, controlling all human behavior; and as the intellect is a spiritual power, so is the will. Thus all purely spiritual or rational goods are sought by the will alone and rational and spiritual evils are rejected by the will. It is the will that desires justice, truth, order, immortality, the service of God and the like, and hates injustice, deceit, chaos, and death. However, the will's objects are not limited to spiritual thingsit seeks also to obtain or avoid physical goods sought by the sensitive appetites; but when the will acts in this sphere, it is because it sees reasonableness in these physical goods. Thus, the sight of food might arouse a person's concupiscible appetite because food is pleasant to eat but he wills to eat it only if he sees that it is reasonable here and now to do so. Hence a man can also starve himself in spite of a contrary urging from the sensitive appetites, if in the circumstances he judges this is a reasonable thing to do. The will ultimately controls all behavior, as long as man is conscious and sane; even behavior motivated primarily by the sense appetites is not carried out unless the will consents.

Free Will. The will is a free power in man, because it is the appetite that follows reason (see free will). Because reason can see several alternatives equally feasible as means of reaching one end, the will has freedom to elect from among them.

Acts of the Will. The acts of the will are often called by the same names as the passions of the sense appetites, namely, love, hate, desire, fear, anger and so on. These, however, are not the names of the will's proper acts. The principal proper acts of the will are to intend an end or purpose, to elect the means to accomplish it, to command the actions that execute it, and to rest content in the purpose accomplished (see human act). If the purpose is to attain a good, we call the acts of intention, election and command, acts of love; if they are aimed at destroying evil, we call them anger; if at escaping an evil, we call them fear and so on.

Relationship to sense appetites. The relationships between the will and the sense appetites are complex. One can arouse the sensitive appetites deliberately by willing to think about and imagine the objects that stir them. Moreover, it often happens that a particularly strong act of the will produces a similar passion in the sense appetites, by a kind of overflow or redundance. So, for instance, some people feel fright physically when called on suddenly to address a large audience, although there is nothing physically threatening. In their turn, the sense appetites can exert considerable influence on the will. The freedom of the will, for instance, depends on the power of reason to judge a situation calmly, taking into account all possibilities. But when the passions are strongly aroused, the power of reason often fails to judge carefully and a man is precipitated into actions he would not otherwise have performed. The passions fix the attention of the mind on the things that stir them and limit its capacity to reflect and thus indirectly limit the freedom of the will. Moreover, to act contrary to strong passions produces strong feelings of pain and sorrow and rather than endure these, men often consent to things they would otherwise reject. Thus, although the will is free and in supreme command in theory, in practice it is often limited by the sense appetites.

Other Theories of Appetition

Many philosophers and psychologists have disagreed with one element or another of the theory of appetition outlined above. Some have denied that appetition is a force consequent and subordinate to cognition. Others have questioned its precise relationship to action. Still others deny the distinction between sense appetites and will, or introduce a dichotomy between affectivity and conation or drive. A summary of representative views along these lines follows.


John duns scotus in the 14th century placed appetite above cognition in the ordering of faculties, arguing that the will is the supreme power in man, against the Thomistic position that intellect is the highest power, eliciting, governing and regulating the acts of the will (see voluntarism; intellectualism).

Arthur schopenhauer (17881860) made will not only the supreme power in man's psychological equipment, but the fundamental reality in all of nature. He argued that the will leads the intellect to its judgments; governs memory, imagination, logic and reflection; drives men in all their actions; and in short, constitutes the essence of man. Moreover, will governs all movements in nature, in animals, in plants and in inanimate bodieswill is the ultimate reality. "The world is wide in space and old in time and of an inexhaustible multiplicity of forms. Yet all this is only the manifestation of the will to live" [The World as Will and Idea, tr. R. B. Haldane and J. Kemp (London 1906) 3:379].

Sigmund Freud (18561939) made drive the major element in human nature and denied that it was elicited by cognition. For him, drives are basically the psychological manifestations of biological processes, arise spontaneously and inexorably in the mind and only subsequently attach themselves to cognitive elements or objects that represent actions and things peculiarly fitted to provide satisfaction ["Instincts and their Vicissitudes," Collected Papers (London 1956) 4:6067].


Other theories of appetition differ regarding its relation to action. G. W. leibniz (16441716) gave his monads two basic activities, perception and appetition, but appetition did not give rise to action, it merely effected the transition from one perception to another within the monad. Since Leibniz did not hold that the mind could efficiently move the physical world, he could not make appetition the cause of action. In higher organisms, appetition is called will, which is an effort or tendency toward good and away from evil. Will results from consciousness of good and evil and is guided by reason, which propose images of the greater goods and evils that will follow from different courses of action [New Essays Concerning Human Understanding, tr. A. G. Langley (La Salle, Ill. 1916) 177, 195].

The so-called James-Lange theory of emotions, proposed by William james in 1884 and Carl Lange in 1885, also realigns emotion and action. According to this theory, objects arouse instinctive reactions that in turn produce bodily changes, which are then perceived as emotions. The instinctive reaction results directly from the perception of the exciting fact, whereas the emotion is the felt result of the bodily alteration. "Common-sense says, we lose our fortune and weep the more rational statement is that we feel sorry because we cry" [James Principles of Psychology (New York 1913) 2:449450]. Experimental evidence does not give unqualified support to this theory, but the element of truth it expresses may perhaps be accounted for by the fact that man becomes conscious of his emotions as a consequence of feeling the bodily commotions they cause [M. Stock, "Sense Consciousness according to St. Thomas," The Thomist, 21 (1958) 460466].

John Dewey (18591952) proposed a theory of emotions that made them the effects of impeded action rather than a spur to effective action. He held that emotions are felt as physical disturbances that arise when a strong urge to act is impeded; as long as actions are carried out uninhibitedly, emotions do not occur.


Philosophers of materialist schools deny the scholastic distinction between sense appetites and will. Herbert spencer (18201903) thought of the will and all the higher powers in man as products of materialistic evolution, whereby simpler psychic responses such as reflexes and tropisms are gradually developed into the more complex operative patterns we name intelligence and will [Principles of Psychology (New York 1883) 1:495].

Freud also denied the will as a distinct and higher faculty in man and attributed all drive in human nature to instinctual urges. He did, however, believe that men could control their drives reasonably, and contemporary psychoanalysis often accepts will as a power in man distinct from instinctual drives [for example H. Hartmann, Ego Psychology and the Problem of Adaptation, tr. D. Rapaport (New York 1958) 7475].


Modern psychological theory, both philosophical and empirical, usually makes a dichotomy between affectivity, or the felt quality of emotion and conation or drive. This distinction is at least as old as William hamilton (17881856) who posits cognition, feeling and conation as the three elemental phenomena of consciousness.

R. H. lotze (18171881) makes the division of ideation, feeling and volition. Feelings arise from pleasure and pain, which are caused by circumstances that are either harmonious to or disturbing to the body. Impulses arise from these feelings, but as distinct from them. Volition also is distinct from impulse [Microcosmus, tr. E. Jones and E. Hamilton (Edinburgh 1888)]. Although there is a basis in felt experience and in the functional role for a distinction between affect and drive, the intimate connection between these two aspects of appetitive activity is lost by positing two distinct powers or capacities. An affect, for example, guilt feeling, can motivate a conation, for example, the urge to confess. An action motivated by a drive, for example, eating when hungry, terminates in an affect, namely, contentment. The interplay of drive and feeling is obscured and rendered difficult to explain if the two aspects of appetite are not seen in their organic relationship.

The physiological researches of W. B. Cannon (18711945) have contributed useful information to theories of appetite. Cannon investigated the physiological changes produced in the body by situations that demand vigorous action. He traced the patterns of discharge in the involuntary nervous system, the glandular reactions and the alterations in respiration, circulation and muscular tension, etc., and noted how they were all ordained to the exigencies of a body about to be engaged in violent action. These patterns of response did not correlate with specific emotional categories, but were generalized reactions to an emergency. In a scholastic theory of appetite, they would suggest the physiological changes involved in the arousing of the irascible appetite [see Bodily Changes in Pain, Hunger, Fear and Rage (New York 1929)].

See Also: passion; will

Bibliography: g. p. klubertanz, The Philosophy of Human Nature (New York 1953). t. v. moore, The Driving Forces of Human Nature (New York 1948). j. wild, Introduction to Realistic Philosophy (New York 1948). j. f. dashiell, Fundamentals of General Psychology (New York 1937). r. s. woodworth, Experimental Psychology (rev. ed. New York 1954). w. mcdougall, Body and Mind (7th ed. London 1928).

[e. m. stock]

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Among the many reasons people give for smoking today, one is that they believe smoking helps them lose weight or maintain a lower weight, either because smoking acts as a substitute for food, or because it suppresses hunger. This belief is particularly common among women and young girls in countries that place a high cultural value on thinness, such as the United States, equating it with success and desirability. Women are also more likely to be worried about putting on weight after quitting smoking. Although in reality the average weight gain upon stopping is only about 5 pounds (2.3kg), the perception is that it will be much greater.

The Historical Context of Smoking and Appetite

The association of smoking, particularly cigarette smoking, with slenderness is one that has been promoted by advertising throughout the twentieth century, but its roots lie in the earliest recordings of tobacco use. European visitors to the Americas from the late fifteenth century onward heard tales of the indigenous population smoking an herb that was both intoxicating and an appetite suppressant. One of the earliest writings to mention tobacco, Joyful News of Our Newfound World, written in 1565 by a Spanish physician, Nicolás Monardes, records that chewing tobacco mixed with lime suppressed hunger and thirst. He suggested it was the juices of tobacco that eased hunger. A French physician, Edme Baillard, writing a century later about snuff, also noted that it reduced hunger and thirst.

Historians have suggested that one reason tobacco became popular in Europe from the sixteenth century onward, particularly among poorer people, was because it alleviated hunger. In the sixteenth century, tobacco smoking was known as "tobacco drinking" or "fog-drinking," language that implies that smoking is a form of nourishment, an idea further reinforced by the practice of swallowing (inhaling) tobacco smoke or chewing tobacco. These ideas persisted. For example, a medical treatise on tobacco published in 1839 describes how Native Americans used tobacco to allay hunger when food was scarce, while several journals noted the inverse relationship between smoking and body weight in the nineteenth century. However, this was also seen as a negative consequence of smoking, as antismoking campaigners were concerned that men were spending money on tobacco instead of nutritious food for their families. By the early twentieth century, a common concern in antismoking literature was that juvenile smoking stunted the physical growth of young boys.

Although not much was known about exactly how tobacco worked to reduce the appetite, it was a concept that became important in the 1920s when cigarette manufacturers were seeking to expand their market to include more women smokers. With the fashionable new slim silhouette of the 1920s, diet, exercise, and weight became a concern among girls and young women anxious to fit in with new trends. Cigarette manufacturers picked up on this with images of young, fit, fashionable, thin, and attractive women in their advertising. In the United States, the manufacturers of Lucky Strike cigarettes, American Tobacco, went one step further. According to the story, the president of the company, George Hill, was driving to work one day when he saw a large woman chewing on gum or a sweet. On the same journey, he saw a slender woman in a taxi, smoking a cigarette. From these two images, his new advertising campaign was born with the slogan, "Reach for a Lucky instead of a sweet." Although the confectionary industry complained, the campaign was enormously successful.

However, the Federal Trade Commission recommended that American Tobacco tone it down, removing the implicit claim that smoking was a way to diet. The subsequent campaign placed slim people inside fat silhouettes and exhorted people to "avoid the future shadow" by choosing Lucky Strike. The British manufacturers of Kensitas cigarettes duplicated this approach in their advertising. Using images of both sexes, the company warned people not only against eating too much, but also against "harsh reducing," in other words, dieting. Instead, they advocated moderation in both nourishment and smoking.

Tobacco advertising also indirectly suggested that smoking could be used as a food substitute by promoting the "taste" of the cigarette and the fact that it was kind "on the palate." The use of menthol in particular was one way in that the taste of cigarettes was enhanced, and the marketing—images of freshness and coolness—led some smokers to think that these cigarettes were actually healthier. However, research has shown that women who smoke menthol cigarettes actually inhale more deeply and could be more nicotine-dependent than those who smoke nonmenthol cigarettes.

From the early Lucky Strike advertisements onward, the tobacco industry has continued to exploit the idea that smoking helps prevent weight gain, a message particularly aimed at women. In the 1950s, one firm developed a cigarette called Trim, which they sought to market as a weight-reducing product. In the 1960s, manufacturers developed socalled "slim" cigarettes, which were longer and slimmer than normal cigarettes. Of these, Virginia Slims has been one of the most enduringly popular brands. Over the years its advertising has combined ideas of independence and success ("You've come a long way, baby") with ideas of thinness ("Slimmer than the fat cigarettes men smoke"). As the health risks of smoking became known, cigarette manufacturers turned toward lower tar, lower nicotine cigarettes. The subtle message that cigarettes can be used to help stay thin was reinforced with terms such as "light," "thin," and "ultralight." One brand, Kim, launched in the 1980s, was described as "a light tasting, low nicotine cigarette with a small circumference." These products were aimed at young women in the 20 to 28 age group.

The Scientific Context of Smoking and Appetite

Exactly how and why smoking has an effect on body weight has been a focus of research since the mid-twentieth century, both within the tobacco industry and outside it. Tobacco industry documents dating from the 1950s suggest that industry was researching the relationship between smoking and appetite and looking for ways of exploiting and enhancing the apparent appetite-suppressing qualities of cigarettes. In 1956, for example, a patent application filed by Philip Morris related to the development of an appetite satient, a product designed to suppress the appetite without supplying calories and to be smoked in a cigarette. The application acknowledged that people who smoked generally ate less and were thinner, explaining this as the psychological effect of sucking at the cigarette. The product sought to combine this psychological effect with a physiological one, by creating a sense of dryness in the mouth, and thus increasing the sucking reflex of the smoker. Other research suggested that appetite was a result of the stomach contracting when it was empty. Researchers thought that smoking a cigarette could stop these contractions for up to an hour.

Most research on smoking and appetite has explored the way in which the inverse relationship between smoking and body weight works. Until the 1990s, this originally centered around the assumption that smoking led to a change in energy balance, for example, by increasing expenditure of calories, either through exercise or increasing the metabolic rate, or by reducing the number of calories consumed (by suppressing appetite or influencing the type of food eaten). There is no evidence that suggests that smoking makes people more physically active, but there is evidence that suggests that smoking and nicotine intake increases the metabolic rate. One way this works is by stimulating the nervous system to produce catecholamines, or hormones that cause the heart to beat faster and therefore make the body burn more calories. Catecholamines help explain some, but not all, of the change in body weight found by smokers when they change smoking status.

Another physiological effect of smoking is that it lowers the insulin level in the body, which accounts for the decreased consumption of sweet foods observed in smokers. However, research has found that smokers do not eat less overall than nonsmokers. Indeed, a number of studies conducted in the late 1980s and early 1990s suggested that smokers actually eat more, and their choices are less healthy (more caffeine and alcohol in particular and less fruit, vegetables, and minerals) than nonsmokers, although this may be due to education and personality differences rather than smoking alone.

However, research has also shown that smokers tend to eat more when they quit smoking. There are a number of possible explanations for this phenomenon. Smoking reduces anxiety and other negative feelings and eating, particularly sweets and chocolate, may serve the same purpose, as carbohydrates increase the levels of serotonin in the brain. In one study, smokers who were given a serotonin reuptake inhibitor, fluoxetine, did not put on as much weight when they gave up smoking as would have been expected (Gilbert). However, other studies have shown that changes in diet after giving up smoking to include more fat and carbohydrates were transient, often lasting only a few weeks. If eating helped to allay negative feelings in the same way as cigarettes, increased consumption of sweet foods would be expected to continue. Another explanation is that smoking adversely affects taste and smell, and this is reversed when smokers give up; thus they enjoy food more.

One current theory (late 1990s to early 2000s) about the relationship between smoking and body weight is that appetite and the amount of food consumed is not directly related to smoking or not smoking, but is a result of the effect of nicotine itself on the brain. Nutritionists argue that body weight, like body temperature and the amount of body water, is physiologically regulated for each individual. The body adjusts both the intake and expenditure of calories to stabilize the weight of an individual at this set level, known as the body weight set-point. Nutritionists believe that the body weight set-point is controlled by hypothalamic mechanisms (from the part of the brain that controls hunger, thirst, and satiety). Researchers have suggested that nicotine affects the regulation of food intake in the hypothalamus. This lowers the body weight setpoint, and therefore the weight gained on stopping smoking is merely a return to the body's natural weight set-point. Nicotine replacement therapy may delay any weight gain when stopping smoking.

"W hen I did stop smoking, I had put on so much weight. I was on a diet to try and lose weight. I started smoking again when I had just two pounds to lose. Then it was OK because I smoked to keep my weight down."—Female oral history respondent, aged 54, interview with author, 27 March 2000.

"Last week I smoked quite a bit because I was trying to diet again . . . if not I'd have eaten."—Female oral history respondent, aged 53, interview with author, 9 November 2000.

However, there is no effective way of countering the weight gained when stopping smoking and antismoking groups tend to focus their efforts on dealing with the perception of weight gain. The amount of weight gained is relatively small and the health effects minimal in relation to the substantial benefits from giving up smoking.

See Also Body; Psychology and Smoking Behavior; Women.



American Heart Association and Others Before the Food and Drug Administration. Petition of the American Heart Association, the American Lung Association and the American Cancer Society, Acting as the Coalition on Smoking and Health Requesting Classification of Cigarettes Which Make Implied or Direct Weight Loss Claims as "Drugs" under the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act. Citizen's Petition. Online. 1991. Available: <>.

Cabanc, M., and P. Frankham. "Evidence that Transient Nicotine Lowers the Body Weight Set Point." Physiology and Behaviour 65 (2002): 539–542.

Ferguson, E. A. United States Patent Office 2 773 785, Appetite Satient Composition. 1956. Available: <>.

Gilbert, David G. Smoking: Individual Differences, Psychopathology and Emotion. Washington, D.C.: Taylor and Francis, 1995.

Goodman, Jordan. Tobacco in History: The Cultures of Dependence. London: Routledge, 1993.

Grunberg, N. E. "The Inverse Relationship Between Tobacco Use and Body Weight." 1990. Available: <>.

Jacobson, Bobbie. Beating the Ladykillers: Women and Smoking. London: Pluto Press, 1986.

Kessey, R. E., and M. D. Hirvonen. "Body Weight Set-Points: Determination and Adjustment." Journal of Nutrition 127 (1997): 1875S–1883S.

Perkins, K. A. "Effects of Tobacco Smoking on Caloric Intake." British Journal of Addiction 87 (1992): 193–205.

Thornton, R. E. The Smoking Behaviour of Women. Report no. RD1410. British American Tobacco Archive, Guildford, B31383-6, 1976.

snuff a form of powdered tobacco, usually flavored, either sniffed into the nose or "dipped," packed between cheek and gum. Snuff was popular in the eighteenth century but had faded to obscurity by the twentieth century.

menthol a form of alcohol imparting a mint flavor to some cigarettes.

tar a residue of tobacco smoke, composed of many chemical substances that are collectively known by this term.

physiology the study of the functions and processes of the body.

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APPETITE. Appetite is a term implying a strong desire to acquire or participate in, exemplified by terms such as sexual appetite or appetite for life. In the context of food, appetite is used to describe a wanting or liking for particular foods, usually on the basis of their sensory properties (taste and texture) or a psychological attribute (perceived value or symbolic status). In this way appetite is usually distinguished from hunger, which implies a desire or seeking for food arising from a state of need or nutritional deficit. At the beginning of the twenty-first century the understanding of appetite achieves special importance because of its potential role in the worldwide epidemic of obesity, sometimes called a pandemic. Given that, in many parts of the world, people are surrounded by a plentiful supply of food that prevents chronic hunger (though permitting normal meal-to-meal hunger), the capacity to eat food in the absence of hunger or in a low state of hunger assumes special importance. Consequently, understanding appetite and how it can be controlled are urgent tasks in the fight against the obesity epidemic.

Appetite can therefore be defined as a liking for particular foods, or an attraction for foods based on their perceived pleasantness. This is normally referred to as the hedonic dimension of food selection. This characteristic can be described as the subjective pleasure that is derived from the consumption of food; in turn, this can be measured by asking people to rate the magnitude or intensity of pleasure associated with eating or tasting foods. This pleasure arises from the interaction between the person's perceptual capacity (acuity of taste, smell, and sensory feedback from the mouth) and the physical properties of foods. The intensity of the pleasure therefore depends in part on internal (personal) and external (food-related) factors. These food factors can be natural, such as the presence of sweet carbohydrates in fruits or, and much more common now, the deliberate construction of powerful properties in the manufacturing process. It can be hypothesized that the industrial production of foods (designed to possess a combination of properties, for example, sweetness, fattiness, flakiness) has saturated the food supply in many parts of the world with an abundance of appetite-stimulating products. These products include chocolates and desserts, cheese, meat, and pastry combinations, and many types of fried snacks. The inherent attractiveness of such products can stimulate eating in the absence of any obvious need for nutrients.

Biological Basis of Appetite

Is there a biological basis for appetite and for the degree of attractiveness of specific types of foods? It does seem that human beings derive pleasure from particular food propertiesthe qualities of sweetness and fattiness are prominent. It is generally understood that, during the course of human evolution, a preference for foods with these properties would lead people to consume foods that possessed energyyielding value, for example, the nutritional value of carbohydrates and the energy value of fats. Consequently the value of these traits for survival has almost certainly persisted until the present day, at which stage these genetic dispositions may be detrimental in the current "obesigenic" environment (but useful when foods with these properties were scarce). The word "obesigenic" was coined around the end of the twentieth century to suggest an environment that promoted weight gain through the abundance, attractiveness, and marketing of food consumption, together with reduced opportunities for physical activity. It is recognized that most cultures contain highly prized food habits based on foods that are either sweet or fatty, and sometimes a combination of bothwhen the palatability can be intense.

Do these genetic traits based on the pleasurable qualities of food have a basis in brain processes? The intrinsic sensory attractiveness of food is mediated by "reward" pathways in the brain. These pathways promote various types of pleasure and can be artificially stimulated by drugs. By using drugs as tools it has been found that particular neurochemical transmitters are involved in the process of reward; these transmitters include dopamine, opioid, and cannabinoid molecules together with their specific receptors. It can also be demonstrated empirically that the areas of the brain that subserve the most intense pleasure can be stimulated both by food sensations (arising from sensory pathways), and modulated by signals of need (arising from the body's energy stores). This means that a nutritional deficit, indicated by a low body weight, for example, can sensitize the reward system so as to increase the measured pleasantness of foods. In practice this would mean that a person who had been coerced into losing substantial body weight would display an increased rating of pleasantness for certain foods. This can be seen as a useful biological mechanism and is given credibility via the long-known phenomenon called alliesthesia, which is perceiving an external stimulus as pleasant or not, depending on internal stimuli. This concept is based on the biological notion of pleasure being a useful trait.

However, it seems certain that another mechanism must also be at work. This mechanism is based on the recognition that some people who gain weight easily and become obese possess traits that lead them to derive a high degree of pleasure from food. Consequently, foods with potent sensory properties are attractive targets for such people and this increasing pleasantness can lead to overconsumption and weight gain. There is clear evidence that obese women rate sweet/fatty foods very highly and consume substantial quantities; other studies have shown that obese people show preferences for fatty foods and for the taste of fat. After eating, obese subjects frequently rate the same food as being more pleasant than do lean subjects. In this way the expression of appetitea heightened pleasure of eatingcan be seen to contribute to increasing body weight and obesity. This arises from endogenous traits to derive pleasure from food (sometimes specific foods) in conjunction with an abundance of foods possessing a profile of pleasure-stimulating properties.

Hedonics and Hunger

The identification of the pleasure response of appetite with a neurochemical substrate also helps to differentiate the hedonic dimension of food from the hunger dimension. The term "hedonic," derived from the Greek word hedone, refers to the seeking of pleasure. Experimental studies in human subjects have shown that a drug called naloxone that blocks opioid receptors can reduce the perceived pleasantness of food without diminishing hunger. In contrast a drug such as fenfluramine, that acts upon serotonin receptors, can substantially reduce hunger without changing the perceived pleasantness of food. This type of pharmacological dissection indicates that the overall control of food intake depends upon both appetite (signals of pleasure) and hunger (signals of absence of food). However, the separation of the systems is not complete since experimental investigations have shown that while people are eating very good-tasting food their hunger is elevated. This elevation serves to prolong the meal so that more food is consumed. The relationship is, however, asymmetrical: although pleasantness increases hunger, a state of satiety does not reduce the perception of pleasure. Indeed, even when people report feeling full, a very palatable food can often still be eaten. Surveys have shown that foods rated as most palatable (pleasant) are associated with the largest meal sizes and with the greatest amount of food consumed. The results of scientific observations are therefore consistent with the widespread belief that people eat more of good-tasting food. However, people do not always choose to eat the most delectable or most pleasure-giving food; eating also depends on the appropriateness of the food for the particular social context. This is a good example of a cultural rule overcoming a biological response. However, much overeating in certain cultures arises from the strength of the biological response or perceived intensity of pleasure overcoming the cultural convention.

The Palatability Dilemma

The potency of appetite in stimulating food consumption creates a problem in the present climate of escalating levels of obesity. There are now strong intentions in the nutraceutical sector of the food industry to encourage the production of functional foods for appetite control; that is, foods that possess satiety-inducing or hunger-suppressing properties. The word "nutraceutical" was coined to resemble the word "pharmaceutical" and refers to those foods that may have specific functional effects generated in a manner similar to the way in which drugs work. However, advances in food technology have, over the years, been able to bring about an increase in the overall pleasantness (palatability) of foods entering the market-place. Indeed, one of the legitimate goals of the food industry is to make eating a source of pleasure. It can be observed that for many people, eating is the cheapest form of pleasure available on a day-to-day basis. However, improving palatability means increasing the sensory attractiveness of foods and the willingness of people to consume such foods. Satiety implies reducing the willingness of people to consume. The question therefore arises whether it is possible for the food industry to increase the palatability of foods without weakening satietyand vice versa. The balance between palatability and satiety is the essence of the interaction between hunger and hedonics in the control of food intake. It remains to be determined how the interplay between these factors contributes to the current obesity epidemic.

See also Acceptance and Rejection; Anorexia, Bulimia; Eating: Anatomy and Physiology of Eating; Hunger, Physiology of; Obesity; Sensation and the Senses .


Blundell, John E., and Peter J. Rogers. "Hunger, Hedonics and the Control of Satiation and Satiety." In Chemical Senses, edited by Mark I. Friedman and Michael G. Tordoff. New York: M. Dekker, 1991.

de Castro, J. M., F. Bellisle, and A.-M. Dalix. "Palatability and Intake Relationships in Free-Living Humans: Measurement and Characterization in the French." Physiology and Behaviour 68 (2000): 271-277

Mela, D. J., and Peter J. Rogers. Food, Eating and Obesity : The PsychoBiological Basis of Appetite and Weight Control. London: Chapman and Hall, 1998.

Mela, D. J., and D. A. Sacchetti. "Sensory Preferences for Fats: Relationships with Diet and Body Composition." American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 53 (1991): 908-915.

Yeomans, M. R. "Taste, Palatability and the Control of Appetite." Proceedings of the Nutrition Society 57 (1998): 609615.

John E. Blundell Joanna Le Noury

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Why do many people desire ice cream and pie or some other rich dessert after eating a huge Thanksgiving dinner? This desire is referred to as appetite, which is not the same as hunger. Appetite is a complicated phenomenon, linking biology with environment . It is a biopsychological system, meaning it is the result of both our biology (hunger) and psychology (desires and feelings).

Hunger, on the other hand, is purely biological . It is that nagging, irritating feeling that makes one think about food and the need to eat. It gets stronger the longer one goes without food, and it weakens after eating. Although the physiological reasons people feel hunger have not been clearly identified, the feeling of hunger rises and falls based on the activation of neural circuitry related to eating. There are many chemical agents in the human body that affect the sensation of hunger. Unfortunately for some people, eating behavior is not governed by hunger and satiety (feeling of fullness), but by a variety of other factors. For example, some people eat in response to their feelings of anxiety , depression , or stress . Eating temporarily helps lessen these feelings, and thus tends to become a coping response whenever they have these bad feelings.

Weight gain may occur if people eat for reasons other than hunger. One strategy to help people manage their weight is for them to learn to differentiate between appetite and hunger, to learn to "listen to their bodies," and to eat only when they are hungryand to stop when they are full. Hunger-control medications can help reduce the biological need to eat, but people still need to manage their psychological feelings about eating.

see also Hunger; Satiety; Weight Management.

John P. Foreyt


Bray, George A. (1998). Contemporary Diagnosis and Management of Obesity. Newtown, PA: Handbooks in Health Care.

Fairburn, Christopher G., and Brownell, Kelly D. eds. (2002). Eating Disorders and Obesity: A Comprehensive Handbook, 2nd edition. New York: Guilford Press.

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appetite desire, spec. for food. XIV. — OF apetit (mod. appétit) — L. appetītus, f. appetere, f. AP- + petere seek (see PETITION).
So appetizing XVII. — (O)F. appétissant, with ending assim. to -IZE, -ING2.

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ap·pe·tite / ˈapiˌtīt/ • n. [usu. in sing.] a natural desire to satisfy a bodily need, esp. for food: he has a healthy appetite. ∎  a strong desire or liking for something: an unquenchable appetite for life.

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Appetite ★★ 1998 (R)

Try to stick with this slow-moving suspenser because it's got a wicked ending. A group of strangers, staying at the same hotel, play a game of cards where the loser must sleep in the reputedly haunted Room 207. 99m/C VHS, DVD . Ute Lemper, Trevor Eve, Christien Anholt, Edward Hardwicke; D: George Milton; W: Dominik Scherrer; C: Peter Thwaites.

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appetite A complex phenomenon, not to be confused with hunger, that in humans is the comparatively pleasant, though at times compelling, anticipation of certain foods. In other animals, appetite is studied by observing feeding behaviour and its relation to specific feeding stimuli, with no assumption of subjective experiences.

views updated

appetite A complex phenomenon, not to be confused with hunger, that in humans is the comparatively pleasant, though at times compelling, anticipation of certain foods. In other animals appetite is studied by observing feeding behaviour and its relation to specific feeding stimuli, with no assumption of subjective experiences.