If you’ve ever joked that you only need to walk past a bakery to gain weight, it turns out you may have been on to something. No, we’re not talking about the fact that it’s nearly impossible to resist eating a slice of freshly-baked cake once that tantalizing aroma hits your nostrils. New research shows that just smelling food can contribute to weight gain — no matter how much you actually eat.
In a study published in the journal Cell Metabolism, mice were injected with a toxin that caused them to temporarily lose their smell. They were then either put on a healthy diet or a high-fat, junk food diet. At the same time, another group of mice with their smell in tact followed the same diets.
After three months, they compared the groups of mice. They found that overall, the smell-deprived mice weighed slightly less than those who could smell. But even more interestingly, the mice on the fatty diet who couldn’t smell weighed 16% less than those who could.
“Okay, well obviously the mice who couldn’t smell just didn’t want to eat as much!” A logical assumption to make, but it turns out the mice were actually eating the exact same amount throughout the study. They were also getting the same amount of physical activity. Therefore, losing their smell somehow protected the mice from weight gain.
So, what’s to make of all this? Well, on further investigation, the scientists discovered that the mice without smell actually burned more calories in their brown fat — the good kind that converts fat to energy. They also converted more white fat (the type you want to get rid of) to brown fat. This suggests that losing their sense of smell actually re-wired their metabolism.
Now, before you go purposely trying to lose your sense of smell in hopes of shedding some lbs, remember this is only the tip of the iceberg. There’s still a lot more research into the link between smell and metabolism that needs to be done. But, just in case it works in the reverse way, you may want to re-think ordering that alarm clock that wakes you up with the smell of croissants!