Is there such thing as dessert tummy?

Sofia Miettinen

Have you ever found yourself having eaten a big portion of food, but as soon as dessert is mentioned you magically have enough space for some dessert? Well you are not alone, and there is some science behind having a dessert stomach!


So, what is a dessert stomach – does this mean we have two stomachs?


Anatomy of the stomach

Some animals such as cows and deer have stomachs with multiple compartments for digesting their foods, for example cows have four stomach compartments. But humans do only have one stomach. Your stomach only has one compartment but is labelled into five different sections: cardia, fundus, body, atrium, and pylorus. Food passes from your mouth, into the oesophagus and then into your stomach, after which it continues its journey into your small intestine.



When you eat, you get a feeling of fullness, and this is called satiety. The science behind satiety is complicated, but satiety happens because eating food sends signals to the brain in response to:

  • The appearance, smell, taste, and texture of the food
  • How filling you think the food will be
  • Food physically stretching the stomach
  • Hormones released when the food is digested
  • Hormones from fat cells to indicate how much extra food stores you already have


Dessert stomach is caused by a scientific phenomenon called sensory-specific satiety. Sensory-specific satiety is when eating lots of the same food makes you feel full and bored, but foods you have not recently eaten appear tastier. When you eat your dinner and become full, your stomach and brain send signals to indicate you are full. But if we are offered dessert, dessert brings new, exciting flavours and our brain recognises this and can override feeling full for the pleasure of eating dessert. Eating a savoury meal for dinner, makes us become more interested in eating something sweet next, and scientists have found that eating sweet after savoury foods makes us have happier facial expressions. Sensory-specific satiety works the other way, meaning you also have a savoury stomach! It also happens with sweet and savoury drinks and different textures of foods too.


Scientists have found that children are happier to eat more sweet foods than adults after eating sweet foods already. You could say that children’s’ dessert stomachs are bigger! You should be careful though, as the stomach is elastic and can stretch to get bigger over time, which means we get hungrier and want to eat bigger portions of food which can cause weight gain.


So, it is true, there is such a thing as a dessert tummy, but not quite the way you thought there was!