Smelling Your Food Makes You Fat: UC Berkeley Study


Namely, research found that a rodent with no olfactory perception won't put on as many pounds as one with standard smelling abilities and the same diet. "There's more to gaining weight than just eating food-it's how you are perceiving the food", Dillin said. They used mice given a diphtheria toxin, which causes them to lose their sense of smell.

Sense of smell has an established influence on appetite and food intake. So the mice that couldn't smell ended up burning more calories through brown fat activity.

According to the lead author, Céline Riera, this is among the first studies to really point out the link between the sense of smell and the way in which the brain perceives and regulates the energy balance. They did so by studying both lean and fat mice, whose olfactory sensory nerves had been temporarily destroyed.

When a mouse can't smell its food, it thinks it has eaten more than it has, triggering more energy use. Unlike the white fat that accumulates on our bellies and thighs, brown fat is specialized to produce heat through metabolism.

In the article, it says that smell-deficient mice ate the same amount of fatty food as mice that retained their sense of smell and ballooned to twice their normal weight.In addition, mice with a boosted sense of smell - super-smellers - got even fatter on a high-fat diet than did mice with normal smell. In humans, a sustained elevation of it could cause heart attacks.

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With findings published in Cell Metabolism, Dillin and his team noted the vast amount of weight that was lost when the sense of smell was eliminated.

It's a depressing thought: having a good sense of smell might make you fatter.

The reverse is true for mice engineered to be "super-smellers". There was no difference in the animals' food consumption. The weight that they lost came only in the form of fat, not organs, muscles or bone mass.

Co-authors of the paper are Jens Brüning, director of the Max Planck Institute for Metabolism Research in Cologne, Germany, and his colleagues Eva Tsaousidou, Linda Engström Ruud, Jens Alber, Hella Brönneke and Brigitte Hampel; Jonathan Halloran, Courtney Anderson and Andreas Stahl of UC Berkeley; Patricia Follett and Carlos Daniel de Magalhaes Filho of the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, California; and Oliver Hahn of the Max Planck Institute for Biology of Ageing in Cologne.