You know odor can affect hunger. Certainly, an awful smell can make you lose your appetite! But since inhaling putrid stenches is not our idea of a fun diet, we were delighted to learn that mouth-watering aromas might also help moderate food intake.

Dutch researchers designed the study to be as scientifically precise as possible: The test subjects — 6 men and 4 women, average age 36 — were allowed to partake freely of vanilla custard, while exposed to either a strong vanilla cream aroma, no aroma, or a weak aroma. Those inhaling the strongest vanilla aroma actually consumed 5% less custard compared to the weak/no scent group. While 5% might not seem that impressive, applied regularly to a 2,000 calorie day this would translate into 100 calories saved per day, and 36,500 calories saved per year. That, in turn, translates into 10 pounds lost (or not gained at least!) over a 12-month period.

Why might this be? Well as Dr. Alan Hirsch of the Smell & Taste Treatment and Research Foundation shared in a recent interview with us, olfactory factors play a big role in satiety, which is why those who lose their sense of smell often gain weight. Certain scents —  banana and apple — might actually help you drop pounds. Moreover, taking time to inhale and enjoy food aromas as part of the sensory experience of dining contributes to mindful eating, where you’re tuned into actual hunger levels and less likely to eat more than you really want (or need). Other mindful eating tricks: using  chopsticks, chewing slowly, and turning off the television during mealtime.
Published May 1, 2012