Knowledge Based Bio-Economy


Understanding food-gut-brain mechanisms across the lifespan in the regulation of hunger and satiety for health (Nutrition)

Project acronym: Full4Health

Title of project: Understanding food-gut-brain mechanisms across the lifespan in the regulation of hunger and satiety for health

Research area: Nutrition

Contract No:  266408

EU contribution: €8 992 613

Start date: February 2011

Duration: 60 months

Status: on-going

Full4Health is a multidisciplinary European collaboration of leading laboratories investigating the mechanisms of hunger, satiety and feeding behaviour. This research is also investigating the effects of dietary components and food structure on these mechanisms and their possible exploitation in combating obesity, chronic disease and under-nutrition. The project integrates investigations of both human volunteers (dietary/exercise intervention studies and administration of encapsulated nutrients) and laboratory animals (with an emphasis on neuronal, hormonal, molecular, physiological and psychological responses to food at different stages in life).

The project applies imaging and other advanced technologies to both humans and rodents to answer critical research questions at different points on the food-gut-brain axis. In human volunteers, responses to diet are under investigation, from childhood through to old age. Using animals, wide-ranging, innovative rodent studies are investigating related issues such as early developmental programming of the food-gut-brain axis, multiple feedback signalling interactions, and inflammation-induced anorexia.

The Full4Health project is designed to advance our knowledge of the mechanisms of hunger and satiety by studying the way that food and nutrients interact with the gut at the level of hormonal secretion and neural signalling; and how gut signals are integrated in different brain regions to influence subsequent feeding behaviour and dietary choices. This food-gut-brain signalling system – and its regulation and functioning – are being studied at a number of levels; in animal models where appropriate, but also in human volunteers across the life span. While primarily addressing the obesity problem, which is driven by over-consumption of calories, the project is also contributing to an evidence base that is relevant to clinical situations of under-nutrition: such as in the elderly or in patients recovering from surgery or chemotherapy.

The project examines the interaction of food and dietary components with the gastrointestinal tract, and is characterising the role of gut endocrine secretions, the vagus nerve, and hindbrain, hypothalamic and forebrain structures in the signalling and integration of hunger and satiety. Physiological and psychological responses to food may change as we develop and age, with impacts on food choices and preferences. This is a critical issue in the battle against chronic disease related to food intake, most commonly driven by over-consumption, but also relevant to under-nutrition in the sick and elderly.

The final results of the Full4Health project will contribute to viable preventative strategies for limiting further growth in the prevalence of obesity and its related complications, thereby reducing the burden of chronic and non-communicable disease.

The identification of mechanisms by which diets, dietary components, or supplements affect hunger, satiety or gut behaviour – be it to limit or encourage caloric intake, or support better nutrition – obviously opens up the potential for commercial exploitation.

Website of project:

Coordinator: Prof. Julian Mercer,

Organisation: The University Court of the University of Aberdeen, UK,