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Nudge-it researchers present their work at the Society for the Study of Ingestive Behaviour

Nudge-it researchers from the Universities of Utrecht, Wageningen, Tubingen, Gothenburg, Bristol and the Helmholtz Centre, Munich, have presented their most recent work at the 2016 meeting of the Society for the Study of Ingestive Behaviour.

The Society for the Study of Ingestive Behaviour (SSIB) is an organization committed to advancing scientific research on food and fluid intake and its associated biological, psychological and social processes. The Society provides a multidisciplinary environment for the free exchange of ideas and information, and serves as a resource for scientific expertise and education on topics related to the study of ingestive behaviour.  visit the SSIB website

The work presented ranged from the action of the hormone Ghrelin on food choice in rodents, through the effect of water on gastric distension, to the effects of portion size on food choice- and lots more.  Read all the abstracts of the work presented on the Nudge-it website.

At the conference, Professor Roger Adan, was awarded the prestigious 2016 Hoebel Award for scientific creativity for his exceptional ability to yoke sophisticated molecular and appetite methods as well as his back and forth translation between work in human and non-human subjects.   This Prize is intended to honour a SSIB member, at any stage of their career, for an exceptional level of creativity and excellence in his or her research on ingestive behaviour.

Professor Adan is Professor of Molecular Pharmacology, Department of Translational Neuroscience, University Medical Centre Utrecht and Brain Centre Rudolf Magnus, Utrecht, and scientific advisor at Altrecht Eating Disorders, Rintveld.

His work is aimed at unravelling the genetic and neural pathways underlying eating disorders and obesity. Feeding is a complex behaviour that serves to control energy balance of an organism. But the homeostatic control of energy balance is challenged by higher brain centres that drive feeding of palatable foods or inhibit feeding in order to lose weight. These disruptions may contribute to development of eating disorders and obesity.   Several animal models are used in which anorectic behaviour (including hyperactivity) is mimicked or in which animals become obese following exposure to palatable choice diets. Using viral vector technology, genes are either overexpressed or knocked down in these animals. Results from animal experiments are translated into clinical relevance by using a human genetics approach in which DNA from eating disorders patients and epidemiological cohorts as well as extensive phenotypic information is examined to determine genotype-phenotype relationships in humans.  find out more

There was recognition too for other Nudge-it researchers:

  • Maike Hege from the University of Tubingen was awarded the Harry R. Kissileff Award for best presentation by a post-doctoral reseacher.
  • Annnie Zimmerman from the University of Bristol was awarded the Gerard P. Smith Award for the best oral presentation from a graduate student on human appetite control.
  • Guido Camps from Wageningen University was granted a Travel Award for his work on gastric distention and its effects on appetite and brain activity

Nudge-it research reaches Time Magazine.


An article regarding the results of research carried out by Nudge-it researchers at Wagenigen University has been published in Time Magazine.   The article, entitled "How Super-Thick Smoothies May Help You Lose Weight" is based on the findings orginally published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

The experiment focussed on the relationship between the viscosity of a foodstuff (in this case a milkshake) and the feeling of fullness, or satiety, percieved by the subject.  Results showed that viscosity of the drink, regardless of its energy density, slowed gastric emptying and produced a feeling of satiety over a longer period

read the Time article

read the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition paper




Brand loyalty could help control food intake


Work by Nudge-it and scientists on the FoodSMART project features in a new article published in the European Union Research and Innovation Magazine “Horizon”.

Nudge-it scientists at the University of Bristol investigated “expected satiety”. As its name suggests, expected satiety refers to the relief from hunger that is expected after eating a particular food. For example, most people would expect a large plate of vegetable curry to result in greater satiety than a handful of grapes.

The team in Bristol looked at how expected satiety influences how much we eat, and also how full we feel after eating.  They devised a study based around the pizza-eating habits of a group of volunteers. 

They found that those who tended to stick to one brand of pizza also tended to be more controlled with their snacking habits after eating it. The researchers think that the single-brand group were much better at controlling their food intake because they had unconsciously learned about the effects of the pizza on their feelings of satiety and were able to better control later food intake.

Support is growing for the idea that in the absence of confusing signals our bodies can naturally keep us slim.  ‘We’re all incredibly good at keeping a stable weight, and it’s a very tiny drift that pushes us into obesity,’ according to the coordinator of the Nudge-it project, Gareth Leng.

Nudge-it researchers in Copenhagen business school are looking at how food is presented in canteens to understand which signals are being sent out, and researchers from the FoodSMART project are working with food providers to find a way of providing information to the consumer about the dishes on offer. 

Read the full article here 

Report of the Fourth Nudge-it meeting

10th – 13th April, Utrecht, report by Jon Brooks, Silivia Maier and Guido Camps

Midway through the 5-year period of the Nudge-IT research project, the consortium’s researchers have evaluated progress on their research questions in a meeting in Utrecht, Netherlands. Project Leader Professor Gareth Leng and Utrecht-based host Professor Roger Adan moderated the discussions.

After short progress updates by all Principal Investigators (PIs), early stage researchers (ESRs) and PIs discussed findings and developments in their projects, explaining their research and new methodologies. During these talks and the poster session, the researchers explored avenues to foster collaborations between groups. For example, one group discussed design requirements for translational studies. In order to get a better picture of the neural mechanisms that underlie dietary choice, researchers need to develop tasks that can be approached in a similar fashion by rodents and humans, such that results of different research programs become more comparable. Yet to achieve this, one has to decide on which factors to focus that could explain weight gain: the amount eaten, or the type of foods that are consumed, or a mixture of both? And in which task would humans and rodents choose the same way? On a more applied level, another small group discussed what policy recommendations could be derived from the findings of the research consortium.

The sheer breadth of techniques and research areas included in Nudge-IT is mind-blowing: Topics range from basic physiological research that for example visualizes gastric emptying (the process of food leaving the stomach) using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) in order to understand how quickly certain types of foods are digested based on how thick they are (think: lemonade versus soup), up to complex behavioral studies that use neuro-economic designs to incentivize healthy eating in school children.

weddel seal for report

 Picture of Weddell seal and her pup, taken at Snow Hill Island, Antarctica (2006) by J.J. L’Heureux  (Reproduced with permission


Excellent speakers from the external advisory group (EAG) provided feedback on the results presented by the Nudge-IT researchers, and showed interesting work from their own institutions: Yale University (Dana Small), the University of Otago (Dave Grattan) and the Rowett Institute of Nutrition and Health in Aberdeen (Julian Mercer). One example of a creative research idea that fascinated a lot of young researchers in the audience was a project that compared the weight gain and loss during and after pregnancy in Weddell seals to changes in metabolism in the overweight in order to learn more about the hormone systems that govern changes in fat metabolism.  

Bell Tower for report



To help counteract the calories consumed during the meeting, local co-organiser Guido Camps had arranged for the delegates to ascend a famous Utrecht landmark (the “Dom”) – over 400 steps above the ground, in the bell tower, participants explored the carillon and enjoyed fantastic views over the surrounding cities up to Amsterdam. Sunday evening, the meeting had started in an untypically sunny Utrecht with an informal get-together and drinks. Monday’s work had been followed by a dinner in the beautiful surroundings of the University Hall.

On Wednesday afternoon, the meeting finished with a public symposium that attracted over 100 participants. The talks provided perspectives of scientists, civil servants and members of industry on healthy food choice. It turned out that the Dutch are the leading nation in Europe when it comes to low childhood obesity rates. Possible explanations for this phenomenon include the national pastime: cycling!