So THAT's Why You Have A 'Second Stomach' For Dessert After Dinner

There's real science behind the phrase.
Mature woman eating cake while standing near open refrigerator at home.
simonkr via Getty Images
Mature woman eating cake while standing near open refrigerator at home.

It’s a weird feeling, isn’t it?

You’ve unbuttoned your trousers after a huge dinner; the thought of eating yet another roast spud, no matter how delicious, elicits groans from your exhausted mouth.

Then, someone mentions pudding. And all of a sudden, your saliva glands kick back into full gear.

My mother always jokingly referred to this culinary contradiction as having a “second stomach” ― there might not have been room for more dinner in her savoury stomach, but her “sweets stomach” was empty.

Funny as it sounds, though, there might actually be science behind her theory.


To be clear, humans aren’t cows ― we only have one stomach.

But we do have a complex brain, which may experience what researchers call “sensory-specific satiety” (SSS).

That means we can genuinely feel completely stuffed from one flavour but crave another.

“As a food is eaten, the pleasantness and desire to eat that food decline relative to other foods that are not eaten,” scientists suggest, meaning your stomach “goes off” the same flavour after a while.

Part of the reason is due to our biological need for dietary variety, researchers at the University of Leeds found in 2013.

“The potentially adaptive value for omnivores is clear: SSS ensures intake of a variety of foods and not just the most favoured,” the paper reads.

So will making a balanced meal kick the habit?

If the issue is that your body is trying to ensure you’re getting enough of different nutrients, surely piling up a healthy plate ― with balanced complex carbs, healthy fats, proteins, and fibre ― should silence that second stomach, right?

Well, partly, yes, according to Sydney Greene, registered dietitian nutritionist, via GoodRX. Balanced meals are more likely to make you “feel” full, and more likely to keep you that way for longer.

But part of the issue is down to taste. “If your meal is balanced, but bland and boring, chances are you’ll seek something else out with the flavour you desire,” Greene shared ― and for many of us, that’s pudding.

The effect can be enormous

A 1984 study found that people consumed 60% more calories in a four-course varied meal than one which stayed the same throughout courses.

“Some selective interactions between different foods were also found. For example, when a savoury food was eaten, the pleasantness of (uneaten) savoury foods decreased more than that of (uneaten) sweet foods, the study found. The inverse was also true.

So, the next time someone tells you you’re ridiculous for suggesting you’ve got a “second stomach,” point them to some research that points otherwise ― and don’t blame yourself for craving that slice of cake.

Like so many things, it’s your brain’s fault.