It turns out that having a wicked sense of smell might not be something to boast about. Not if you’re looking to lose weight, at any rate.
Scientists at the University of California wondered whether there was any correlation between the food we smell and our ability to lose weight, and so they put lab mice to the test.
Basically, they fed two groups of mice — ones that could smell and ones that could not — one of two diets. One of the groups received a regular balanced diet while the other received high-fat meals. While all mice eating a regular diet weighed in around the same by the end of the three-month trial, there was a significant difference between those that could and could not smell in the high-fat group. The mice that could smell their food actually ended up storing more fat than the non-smelling rodents. In fact, non-smelling mice weighed in at about 16 per cent less overall than their sharp-nosed counterparts.
Scientists first thought that maybe the mice that couldn’t smell didn’t enjoy eating as much as those that could, and so maybe they were eating less (we all know that when something smells good we’re more likely to crave it). But as it turns out, both groups of mice in the high-fat group were indeed polishing off the same amount of food, (and getting the same amount of exercise) which got cell biologist Andrew Dillin and his co-workers thinking: perhaps it all has something to do with our brains.
“There’s more to gaining weight than just eating food — it’s how you are perceiving the food,” said Dillin. “[The mice] rewire their metabolic programming to burn more calories.”
Right now, the working theory is that non-smelling rodents used more energy because their lack of smell told their brains they had eaten more than they had. This, in turn, led them to burn more calories. And for the mice that could smell? Well, their brains told them to store the fats instead.
Science, huh? It’s so crazy.
While it’s tempting to pinch your nose with a clothespin the next time you sit down to a pizza or tacos though, know that scientists have yet to determine whether the same results are true with humans. Besides, isn’t smelling your food half the fun?
We’d like to think so.