Woman’s Day (NZ) - - Healthy Living -

New re­search from the Univer­sity of Otago has found a link be­tween smell and obe­sity. Lead au­thor of the study, Dr Mei Peng from the univer­sity’s De­part­ment of Food Science, says find­ings show a strong link be­tween a per­son’s body weight and their sense of smell – the better a per­son can smell, the more likely they are to be slim or vice versa. The link be­tween smell and body shape was pre­vi­ously a rel­a­tively un­known area of sci­en­tific study.


Of the five senses, Dr Peng con­sid­ers smell to be the least un­der­stood, but at the same time, it's per­haps the most im­por­tant sense for in­flu­enc­ing eat­ing be­hav­iour – how we de­tect and choose be­tween dif­fer­ent flavours. “We found that obese people's abil­ity to de­tect and dis­crim­i­nate smell was not as ef­fi­cient as slim people," she says. "This can re­sult in obese people hav­ing a higher chance of mak­ing poor food choices be­cause they will need other forms of stim­u­la­tion to enjoy food. For ex­am­ple, they might be more at­tracted to saltier and tastier foods such as ba­con and maple syrup, in­stead of blander foods such as low-fat ce­real with less sugar."


Body weight has to pass a cer­tain bench­mark for the link to be­come ob­vi­ous, so the re­duc­tion in abil­ity to de­tect and dis­crim­i­nate be­tween dif­fer­ent smells was greater among people who were closer to be­ing obese. The re­searchers hy­poth­e­sise that once a per­son is obese, their me­tab­o­lism al­ters, af­fect­ing the gut-brain sig­nalling path­way.

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