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Smelling Food is Bad for Weight Loss Because Nothing is Good in This World

Are food smells hindering your weight loss efforts? The answer might surprise you.

Have you ever noticed that smelling food makes you hungry (even when you weren’t hungry before)? That's not what you want when you’re trying to shed pounds, but it doesn’t mean you can’t lose weight. Simply avoid certain situations where unhealthy foods are lurking (and causing food aromas).

Why Smelling Food Causes Hunger

Your sense of smell is linked with taste and hunger. That’s because smelling food causes hormone changes in your body associated with appetite, food preferences, and the way your body metabolizes food. Food odors stimulate appetite, food-seeking behavior, salivation, insulin, circulating glucose and gastric acid production, according to a 2015 study published in Cellular and Molecular Life Sciences. But the interesting thing about this study is that sustained exposure to food odor (continued for long time periods) may actually boost satiety and decrease food intake.

Is Smelling Bad for Weight Loss?

Smelling food can hinder weight loss if it causes you eat more (especially unhealthy foods). According to UC Berkeley, experiments on this campus showed that obese mice who lost their sense of smell ended up much smaller than normal-smelling mice. And, mice with an enhanced sense of smells gained more weight and fat than normal smellers.

Something weird that happened based on UC Berkeley’s research is that the mice that couldn’t smell ate the same amount of fatty food as normal-smelling mice, yet were much thinner. This could mean how their bodies process smell determines how calories are utilized within the body (stored vs. being burned). The smell-deficient mice up-regulated their sympathetic nervous systems and turned beige fat cells into brown fat cells (which increases fat burning and yields leaner physiques). Researchers say that by manipulating the sense of smell, the brain may alter how it regulates food metabolism and energy balance.

Reduced Sense of Smell

People with a hindered sense of smell may be more likely to lose weight than normal or enhanced smellers. UC Berkeley says people who can't smell due to injury, age or disease (like Parkinson’s disease) can become anorexic. The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) confirms that impaired smell can lead to weight loss, but that some people actually gain weight because of it (possibly due to depression or other outside factors).

Smelling Leads to Eating

Not only can smelling food lead to hunger, it causes you to be hungry for the specific food you’re smelling, according to a 2016 review published in the journal Foods. Researchers found that food odors boost appetite for foods with similar energy densities and flavors. For example, savory odors lead to a desire for savory foods, and sweet smells boost an appetite for other sweet foods.

Avoiding Food Smells

Whether you’re at a restaurant, the ballpark, a fair or friend’s house, sometimes you just can’t avoid food odors. But that doesn’t mean you can’t shed pounds. Just be aware than smelling unhealthy foods (like hamburgers and pizza) may cause you to crave those foods. Try to surround yourself with healthy foods (and smells) when possible when weight loss is your goal.

[Image via Shutterstock]

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