People trying to lose weight may have tried different weight loss equipment such as the treadmill, ab roller machine, and the ever-classic gym ball. Nevertheless, new research suggests that using nose plugs instead to block the smell of food may help you lose weight.
Researchers at the University of California in Berkeley conducted an experiment on obese mice to analyze the relationship between the smell of food and weight gain and/or loss. In the study, three groups of obese rats were fed similar high-calorie diets. Researchers also measured the mice’s weight and their speed of metabolic processes. One group of rats had their sense of smell removed by the researchers, while another group had their sense of smell improved. The remaining group had their sense of smell remain normal.
The findings of the study, published in the journal Cell Metabolism, revealed that the group of rats that could not smell slimmed down, in contrast to the two groups who could smell. The group with a normal sense of smell had a two times increase in weight, while the group of rats with enhanced sense of smell gained the most weight.
“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,” Celine Riera, one of the researchers, explained in a press release.
The researchers suggested that our sense of smell affects the metabolic process in the body by either storing food energy as fat or burning it. They concluded that if you cannot smell your food, you are more likely to burn it off instead of store it. Furthermore, they said that the sense of smell and the parts of the brain that control metabolism, particularly the hypothalamus, are associated with each other. However, they were unable to explain why and how this happens.
Andrew Dillin, lead author of the study, suggested that this could be an alternative to gastric surgery for obesity. (Related: Gastric bypass surgery should be a last resort, not a choice of convenience.)
Other studies on the sense of smell and food
A previous study from the University of Portsmouth found that people who are clinically overweight are more sensitive and more easily seduced by the odor of foods compared to people who are of normal weight.
In the study, published in the journal Chemical Senses, researchers tested the reactions of 40 people who were either obese or have normal weight to the scent of chocolate. Results revealed that the obese group reported the smell as more pleasant and were more sensitive to it. The researchers concluded that a person who is more sensitive to smell is more likely to weigh more and be obese.
In addition, a different study from the U.S. found that the aroma of cooking stimulates the brains of obese people to produce excessively high levels of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that controls the pleasure centers of the brain. Other studies have claimed that the aroma of food stimulates other brain areas that triggers our impulsiveness. Aside from dopamine, the hippocampus, which is responsible for creating memories, also plays an important role in our response to the odor of food. Moreover, a study published in the journal Nature Neuroscience also found that hunger stimulates the CB cannabinoid receptors in the brain, which in turn activates the olfactory bulb and cortex. This process increases the smell sensitivity of a person who is hungry and increases the craving for food.
Lorenzo Stafford from the University of Portsmouth said that the hippocampal areas of obese people are more responsive to food odors than that of lean people. This may be because of the memory reinforces the link between a particular food odor and pleasure.
Read more about the brain and how it works at Mind.news.