Use Your Nose to Sniff Out Calories

Imagine this. You can lose weight by using your nose.

Researchers have found that humans can use smell to detect dietary levels of fat, according to 

As food smell almost always is detected before taste, the findings identify one of the first sensory qualities that signals whether a food contains fat. Innovative methods using odor to make low-fat foods more palatable could someday aid public health efforts to reduce dietary fat intake.

“The human sense of smell is far better at guiding us through our everyday lives than we give it credit for,” said senior author Johan Lundström, PhD, a cognitive neuroscientist at Monell at “That we have the ability to detect and discriminate minute differences in the fat content of our food suggests that this ability must have had considerable evolutionary importance.” 

The reason?  "As the most calorically dense nutrient, fat has been a desired energy source across much of human evolution," the Web site reports. "As such, it would have been advantageous to be able to detect sources of fat in food, just as sweet taste is thought to signal a source of carbohydrate energy."

How'd they do it?  With milk.  In three experiments, scientists had people sniff milk with different levels of fat while blindfolded, and in all three, people unerringly picked out the stuff with the most fat.

Didn't matter if you were fat or thin, the ability to differentiate was shared by all.

But don't give up on Weight Watchers just yet.  "Fat molecules typically are not airborne, They are unlikely to be sensed by sniffing food samples," said lead author Sanne Boesveldt, PhD, a sensory neuroscientist. "We will need sophisticated chemical analyses to sniff out the signal."


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