Obese people may have sharper sense of smell
People who are obese appear to have a keener sense of smell when it comes to food than non-obese people, according to a small study conducted at the Center for Comparative and Evolutionary Psychology at the University of Portsmouth in England.
To conduct their study, the research team selected 40 university students and categorized them as either obese or non-obese. All the participants were nonsmokers in good health who were not currently in weight loss programs or taking appetite suppressants. The researchers first asked students to smell an artificial dark chocolate flavor and rate how intense it was and how pleasant they found the smell. The flavor was then diluted into solutions of different strengths and the participants were tested to determine the lowest concentration they could reliably detect. The scientists also tested the participants on their sense of taste for the four main flavors: sour, salty, bitter, and sweet. Solutions of each taste were sprayed onto the participants’ tongues and they were asked to identify and rate the strength of each.
The team then focused on determining if there was a relationship between the senses of smell and taste and body weight. They found that obese people were better at detecting the chocolate odor than the non-obese group, and that they also rated the odor as more pleasant.
The researchers theorized that since smell triggers the reward center in the brain, perhaps sensory cues, such as sight and smell, can increase cravings for food--which can ead to overeating and weight gain.