Can bad diet cause loss of smell?

There already are plenty of reasons to reduce fatty foods in your diet---and the list is getting longer. Research at Florida State University has found that eating high-fat foods can affect the olfactory system and impair the sense of smell permanently. The study, published in Journal of Neuroscience, is the first to show a direct correlation between bad diet and smelling loss.

For six months, the researchers fed mice a high-fat diet and trained them to distinguish between a certain odor and a reward--in this case the reward was water. Mice on the high-fat diet had difficulty learning the odor-reward connection compared to a control population. When a new odor was introduced, the mice on high-fat diets were slow to adjust, which researchers said reflected more limited smelling abilities.

The scientists then discovered that when the mice returned to a healthy diet and lost weight, their olfactory senses were still impaired. In fact, the high-fat diets affected the olfactory senses so much that, according to the researchers, only 50 percent of their neurons could encode odor signals.

The study, funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), shows how obesity can affect the body in ways not usually associated with it.

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