Smelling Your Food May Increase Your Weight – Study

Foodies, if you are looking for ways to shed those extra kilos without eating less then just stop smelling your food. This weird but startling suggestion came from a mouse study carried out at the University of California, Berkeley.

The study claims smelling the aroma of food may increase an individual’s weight. Researchers in the study came up with their claim after the smell-deficient mice slimmed down even after eating the same amount of fatty food as mice with the ability to smell that gained twice their normal weight.

Led by UC Berkeley Molecular and Cell Biology Professor Prof. Andrew Dillin and Céline Riera, the study suggests that the smell/aroma of what we eat may determine how our body deals with calories. Those who can’t smell their food may burn it rather than store it, may be due to tricking the body into thinking food is already eaten, it says.

The findings indicate a major link between the smell system and regions of the brain that regulate metabolism, specifically the hypothalamus.

“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,” said Dillin.

To reach their findings, Dillin and colleagues compared three groups of mice: first without the ability to smell, second having sense of smell and the third with super sense of smell. To make the rodents smell-deficient, the researchers used a gene therapy to temporarily destroy the olfactory neurons or smell system in the noses of adult mice while sparing the stem cells.

Rodents in all three groups were fed the same amount of high-fat diet.

At the end of the study, the smell-deficient mice gained at most 10 percent more weight, having their weight increased from 25-30 grams to 33 grams, while mice in the control group that retained their olfactory neurons gained around 100 percent of their regular weight, ballooning up to 60 grams, despite eating the same amount of food.

In addition, mice with increased scent receptors gained significantly more weight on a standard diet than their counterparts without the ability to smell.

“People with eating disorders sometimes have a hard time controlling how much food they are eating and they have a lot of cravings,” Riera said. “We think olfactory neurons are very important for controlling pleasure of food and if we have a way to modulate this pathway, we might be able to block cravings in these people and help them with managing their food intake.”

The study was published this week in the journal Cell Metabolism.