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Indulgent Aromas for Weight Loss

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Smell your way skinny

Imagine you are walking down a crowded city sidewalk on a brisk winter day when out of nowhere the scent of sweet warm roasted peanuts makes its way to your nose.  Yes, it’s just what you wanted; a perfect salty sugary snack to warm you up.  Researchers from the University of South Florida suggest that if you lingered on that corner for just two minutes or so, that craving could likely have been satisfied with a much healthier alternative, say a piece of fruit, like a banana

Published in The Journal of Marketing Research, researchers tested how purchase behaviors of unhealthy or healthy foods fluctuated when different food aromas filled the air.   One test conducted in a middle school cafeteria, exposed students to the smell of pizza (desirable), apples (non-indulgent) or nothing at all.  Interestingly, when the scent of pizza was in the air, the least amount of unhealthy foods was sold!  Unhealthy items were at 21% on the pizza scent day, while on the apple and no scents days, 37% of items sold were unhealthy.  Similar results were observed in a retail shop when the scent of cookies (desirable) or strawberries (non-indulgent) was pumped into the air.  In both scenarios, exposure to the indulgent food smell for 2 minutes or more actually weakened the desire for unhealthy foods, resulting in increased sales of healthier items.  In these examples scientists’ credit prolonged exposure to desirable scent with both stimulating and satisfying a food craving.  It’s important to note that exposure to indulgent scents for two minutes reduced purchase of unhealthy foods, but just 30 seconds of exposure to the aroma or less was found to have the opposite effect. 

That said, if these findings were to be true in the home setting, we may be able to incorporate food based aroma therapy into our weight loss routines.  Just think, comforting brownie, birthday cake or chocolate chip cookie scented candles to help curb unintended cravings!

Published March 1, 2019

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