That wonderful smell of good food may make you fatter, study finds

BERKELEY, Calif. — The better you’re able to smell your favorite junk foods, the more pounds you’ll add around the belly, a new study finds.

Researchers at University of California Berkeley used mice with varying olfactory capabilities, for an experiment exploring the link between the scent of food and how it’s stored in one’s body.

Food being grilled on barbecue
A new study finds that our sense of smell and the scent of our favorite foods may have a direct connection to the amount of weight we gain.

For their experiment, researchers were able to study three different types of mice: those with an average sense of smell, an above-average sense of smell, and a below-average sense of smell.

Although all mice were fed the same high-fat diet, the mice with substandard smelling capabilities did not demonstrate any noticeable weight gain.

Meanwhile, mice that had average scent capabilities ballooned to twice their previous weight on their new diet. This effect was even more pronounced among mice that had heightened smelling capabilities.

The study’s findings suggest that there is a causal relationship between a creature’s sense of smell and their brain’s ability to regulate metabolism, although the exact mechanisms haven’t yet been pinpointed.

“Sensory systems play a role in metabolism. Weight gain isn’t purely a measure of the calories taken in; it’s also related to how those calories are perceived,” explains senior author Andrew Dillin in a Berkeley news release.

It is possible that the lack of smell emanating from a given food tricks the body into thinking it’s already full, the authors noted.

Naturally, the next step would be proving that these findings amongst mice also apply to humans.

It has previously been shown that humans who lose their sense of smell often become anorexic, a fact that helped prompt this recent study.

While impairing one’s smell may not be a viable option for many individuals, it could be used for those who would otherwise have to undergo serious procedures due to their weight (e.g., stomach stapling or bariatric surgery).

To be clear, no animals were harmed during the course of the research. Any mice that lost their sense of smell were only temporarily impaired through the use of a relatively safe method.

The study’s findings were published in the journal Cell Metabolism.


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