Diet selection and animal state: An integrative framework

Ilias Kyriazakis*, Bert J. Tolkamp, Gerry Emmans

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

64 Citations (Scopus)


In the present paper we deal with the problems of explaining and predicting diet selection of animals under controlled conditions, i.e. conditions that can be described and in which any influences of the environment can be either controlled or at least monitored. Diet selection is considered within an integrative framework of feeding behaviour that views both food intake and diet selection as an outcome of the animal's internal state and knowledge of the feeding environment. Three questions that arise from the framework are considered: (1) how do animals learn about foods available to them as a choice? (2) what changes in internal state affect diet selection? (3) how much time is needed for a change in the animal's internal state to be detected and for it to react to this change through a modification of its diet selection? It is proposed that animals have developed behavioural mechanisms that allow them to recognize foods on the basis of their nutritional as well as other properties. The rate at which animals learn about foods depends largely on the extent of the animal's deficiency and on the extent of the post-ingestive consequences induced by the foods. There is little evidence that animals modify their diet selection in response to short-term systemic fluctuation of their internal environment. On the other hand, long-term changes in the internal state of the animal lead to consequent long-term changes in diet selection. The time needed for a change in diet selection to be observed depends on the deviation created in the animal's internal state, either as a result of a physiological change or as a consequence of feeding. Thus, a more appropriate question to consider is not 'what time period matters to the animal?' but 'how much change or deviation in the internal state is the animal prepared to accept'?

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)765-772
Number of pages8
JournalProceedings of the Nutrition Society
Issue number4
Publication statusPrint publication - Nov 1999


  • Diet selection
  • Feeding behaviour
  • Internal state
  • Learning


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