Protein v. carbohydrate intake differentially affects liking- and wanting-related brain signalling

J.M. Born*, M. Martens, S.G. Lemmens, R. Goebel, M.S. Westerterp-Plantenga

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Extreme macronutrient intakes possibly lead to different brain signalling. The aim of the present study was to determine the effects of ingesting high-protein v. high-carbohydrate food on liking and wanting task-related brain signalling (TRS) and subsequent macronutrient intake. A total of thirty female subjects (21.6 (sd 2.2) years, BMI 25.0 (sd 3.7) kg/m2) completed four functional MRI scans: two fasted and two satiated on two different days. During the scans, subjects rated all food items for liking and wanting, thereby choosing the subsequent meal. The results show that high-protein (PROT) v. high-carbohydrate (CARB) conditions were generated using protein or carbohydrate drinks at the first meal. Energy intake and hunger were recorded. PROT (protein: 53.7 (sd 2.1) percentage of energy (En%); carbohydrate: 6.4 (sd 1.3) En%) and CARB conditions (protein: 11.8 (sd 0.6) En%; carbohydrate: 70.0 (sd 2.4) En%) were achieved during the first meal, while the second meals were not different between the conditions. Hunger, energy intake, and behavioural liking and wanting ratings were decreased after the first meal (P < 0.001). Comparing the first with the second meal, the macronutrient content changed: carbohydrate - 26.9 En% in the CARB condition, protein - 37.8 En% in the PROT condition. After the first meal in the CARB condition, wanting TRS was increased in the hypothalamus. After the first meal in the PROT condition, liking TRS was decreased in the putamen (P < 0.05). The change in energy intake from the first to the second meal was inversely related to the change in liking TRS in the striatum and hypothalamus in the CARB condition and positively related in the PROT condition (P < 0.05). In conclusion, wanting and liking TRS were affected differentially with a change in carbohydrate or protein intake, underscoring subsequent energy intake and shift in macronutrient composition.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)376-381
Number of pages6
JournalBritish Journal of Nutrition
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 28 Jan 2013


  • Rewarding value
  • Liking and wanting
  • Protein
  • Carbohydrate
  • Brain
  • Functional MRI
  • Food choices
  • FOOD

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