The Tribune (SLO) - - Front Page - BY EVE GLAZIER, M.D., and EL­IZ­A­BETH KO, M.D. Send your ques­tions to ask­the­do­c­[email protected]­, or write: Ask the Doc­tors, c/o Me­dia Re­la­tions, UCLA Health, 924 West­wood Blvd., Suite 350, Los An­ge­les, CA, 90095.

As­sis­tant coach Mike Van Ryn tweaks the Blues’ de­fen­sive pair­ings, lead­ing to a 4-2 win over the Sharks Mon­day.

Dear Doc­tor: I read about a study that said smelling junk food you want to quit eat­ing – hello, pizza and donuts! – will stop your crav­ing. Is that re­ally true? I want to eat health­ier, but some foods are so hard to re­sist.

Dear Reader: This par­tic­u­lar the­ory hadn’t crossed our radar un­til we read your let­ter, but we did a bit of digging and found the study you’re re­fer­ring to. It was con­ducted by re­searchers at the Univer­sity of South Florida and pub­lished at the start of the year in the Jour­nal of Mar­ket­ing Re­search.

The study’s find­ings were as you say – the sus­tained scent of a tempt­ing snack food had the ef­fect of eas­ing the crav­ing for that snack. That’s some­what ironic, con­sid­er­ing the point of the study was to ex­am­ine more closely the prac­tice of us­ing am­bi­ent scent in pub­lic set­tings as a mar­ket­ing ploy.

These am­bi­ent scents are part of an in­creas­ingly com­mon prac­tice in which re­tail­ers in­fuse ar­eas with se­duc­tive smells to act as “aroma bill­boards,” as one ad­ver­tis­ing com­pany put it, to drive food sales. Any­one within sniff­ing dis­tance of a Cinnabon stand in a mall has directly ex­pe­ri­enced this tech­nique. Sto­ries about the prac­tice men­tion cho­co­late-scented strips placed on vend­ing ma­chines in Cal­i­for­nia that caused the sales of Her­shey bars to triple, a gro­cery store in New York whose bak­ery sales spiked when­ever the scent of fresh-baked bread was pumped through the aisles, and the use of a va­ri­ety of hid­den scent ma­chines through­out Dis­ney prop­er­ties to en­cour­age spend­ing.

Ac­cord­ing to the study you asked about, it turns out there’s an im­por­tant catch when it comes to the scent-driven mar­ket­ing of food: The re­searchers found that whether or not a scent trig­gered a crav­ing was directly re­lated to the amount of time some­one spent smelling it. The tests were con­ducted in sev­eral sites, in­clud­ing a gro­cery store and a mid­dle school cafe­te­ria.

Re­searchers used a hid­den neb­u­lizer, which is a de­vice that broad­casts scent. In­di­vid­u­als were ex­posed to al­ter­nat­ing pairs of scents, one of a health­ful food, and one of a junk food item. The scent of straw­ber­ries was paired with the aroma of cho­co­late chip cook­ies, and the scent of apples was paired with that of pizza. A quick whiff of a cookie – 30 sec­onds or less – of­ten led to the cookie be­ing se­lected rather than the strawberry. But when the cookie scent lin­gered for 2 min­utes or more, the cookie lost its al­lure, and par­tic­i­pants chose to eat the strawberry in­stead. The ap­ple-pizza combo had the same time de­pen­dent re­sults. The take­away is that by in­hal­ing the scent of a tempt­ing food long enough, you’ll move past crav­ing it and ar­rive at the point where the scent it­self has sat­is­fied the crav­ing.

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