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Smell More, Eat Less

This is another great find from Bottom Line Secrets; we often read things from them that haven’t yet hit the headlines or the TV news:

You probably associate delicious food aromas with wanting to eat more of whatever you’re smelling, whether it’s the scent of fresh-baked cookies or bacon sizzling in the skillet.

But a new study suggests that powerful food smells actually may help you eat less… and lose weight in the process.

René de Wijk, PhD, is a Dutch sensory scientist who studies how people react to the look, feel, taste and smell of food.

He wanted to explore whether the smell of food influences how big a bite we take, because previous studies have shown that when we take smaller bites, we feel full on fewer calories than when we take bigger bites.

Dr. de Wijk hooked 10 volunteers to machines that pumped a custard dessert directly into their mouths. (I know—I wish that I could have participated in this study, too.)

At the same time, the subjects were randomly exposed to either a slightly detectable aroma of natural cream…or a moderately detectable aroma of natural cream…or no aroma at all. During the experiment, the participants could press a button whenever they wanted to stop the flow of custard, which determined their “bite” size. The key result? People pressed the button more quickly—in essence, took smaller bites—when the aroma was stronger.

What surprised Dr. de Wijk was the fact that it didn’t take an overly strong scent to influence his subjects’ bite size. “Even the relatively weak aroma was associated with a smaller bite size. Most of the subjects were not even aware that an aroma had been presented—the decision to take a smaller bite was largely subconscious,” he said.

Dr. de Wijk theorized why the smell may have worked. “A cream aroma is associated with calories, and we regulate calories via bite size,” he said. Or, it could also be that we have an innate tendency to try to moderate intense sensations of any kind, so we take smaller bites as a protective measure. (Dr. de Wijk’s work has also shown that we take smaller bites from highly textured foods.)

“I would think that any foods that have intense flavors—and therefore intense scents—would result in smaller bite size and, therefore, you’d need less food to feel full,” he told me. So creamy aromas aren’t the only ones that might help you eat less. For example, aromas that are strongly spicy, meaty, buttery, fishy, vinegary, lemony, garlicky or oniony—anything other than bland—might also do the trick. And whatever the aroma, eating your food warm or hot might help you eat less than eating it cold, since warmth brings out aromas more strongly. Heat up those leftovers!

Source: René A. de Wijk, PhD, senior sensory scientist in the department of food and biobased research at Wageningen University and Research Centre, The Netherlands, and lead author of a study published in Flavour.

September 30, 2012 - Posted by | Diet / Weight Loss, Experiment, Food

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