You can be full and have room for dessert

Many find space for dessert after a heavy meal. [Photo: Getty]

Those with a sweet tooth will be well versed in feeling full but having space for pudding.

Good news for many, an expert claims “dessert stomach” is not only real, but part of our evolution.

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Known as sensory-specific satiety, food becomes less appealing the more it is eaten, creating the sensation of fullness.

When presented with a new taste or texture, however, you suddenly find room for that sticky toffee pudding.

Humans are thought to have evolved this way to ensure we get a wide range of nutrients from a variety of food.

“The decline in pleasure you derive from food is specific to the food you have been eating, or other foods that are similar,” Professor Barbara Rolls, from Penn State University, told the Daily Mail.

“So, while you might lose your appetite for that food, a different food will still be appealing.

“That's why you always have room for dessert.”

Sensory-specific satiety is even evident in newly-weaned babies.

A 1939 study in Chicago had infants be presented with 33 different types of food laid out on trays.

When a baby independently reached for a particular type of food, a nurse fed it to them.

Over time, the youngsters selected a range of different items.

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Decades later, the news website Vox presented volunteers with a large plate of macaroni cheese, which they were instructed to eat until they were full.

This was followed by a “dessert” of the same cheesy pasta dish.

When asked to rate how “interested” they were in the food, it fell from an initial 6.2 out of 10 to just 0.2.

The experiment was then repeated with a proper pudding of ice cream, which the volunteers ate three times more of.

“[Sensory-specific satiety] encourages you to switch from food to food, so it’s a good thing,” Professor Rolls told Vox.

“We’re omnivores and we need to eat a variety, so having a shift in how much we like the food that we’re eating but still like other foods encourages variety.”

While sensory-specific satiety may ensure we get all the nutrients we need, it can be bad news for those trying to lose weight.

A study by Professor Rolls - who has been researching the subject for 40 years - found people eat 60% more calories if given separate meals over four courses, compared to the same meal four times.

It may also explain why buffets or barbeques can be so tempting.

“If we are presented with a variety of food, surrounded by a variety of food, it encourages us to keep eating beyond usual satiety”, Professor Rolls said.

READ MORE: Children from the poorest parts of England are more than twice as likely to be obese

With a wide range of foods on offer to us, she even claims sensory-specific satiety could explain the obesity epidemic.

In 2017, 29% of adults were classified as obese in the UK, NHS Digital statistics show.

More than a third (39.8%) of adults in the US were obese between 2016 and 2016, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

To combat this, Professor Rolls recommends dieters keep a variety of healthy foods in the cupboard.