People with Strong "Odor Imagination" Tend to Weigh More
Can you smell the coffee? Or cookies? Or that cheeseburger you’ve been craving? New research shows that the more vividly you can imagine aromas, the more likely it is you may have trouble keeping your weight under control.
While previous research has suggested that food cravings are linked to obesity and that the intensity of those cravings are linked to the vividness of a person's mental images of food, researchers at Yale University wanted to know if there was a link between odor imagination and obesity. The ability to imagine odors can vary greatly among people,
They gave 25 people three questionnaires asking them to rate their mental-imagery abilities, including visual imagery, olfactory imagery, and food imagery. Each question asked participants to first vividly imagine certain scenarios and then rate the vividness of the image on a scale of 1 to 5. They found that people who had higher body mass indexes (BMIs) also reported more vivid imaginations when it came to odors and foods than people with lower BMIs. In fact, they determined that having strong odor imagaination was the best predictor of BMI out of all the measures including visual and food imagery. The researchers then repeated the experiment with 57 new people and got the same results.
Said lead study author Barkha Patel: "Being better able to imagine odors could intensify the craving experience, which in turn would encourage food consumption. "However, if the ability to imagine odors was disrupted by something like a walk, for example, perhaps cravings would diminish, and we wouldn't feel the need to eat."
These findings show promise in helping people struggling with obesity, as well as serving as new tools for weight loss programs.