Diminishing Cravings with Aromatherapy?

Do you think you can use manipulation of smell to really lose weight?  It’s a question worth exploring - or is it just another gimmick?

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, there may be some science that backs up the findings of how aromas help with certain cravings.

Dr. Susan Lark wrote an article on the science of smell and weight loss and she contends that:

“specific aromas can deprogram overweight people whose normal response to the smell of rich unhealthy foods like chocolate, doughnuts, and pizza was to become hungry and overeat.

Scientists tested the benefits of food odors to suppress appetite rather than stimulate appetite, and found that there seemed to be certain smells that caused overweight individuals to reduce their cravings, and therefore eat less.

In scientific research, people preferred sweet smells, and strongly sweet scents such as chocolate often triggered feelings of hunger and led to overeating or binge eating, while “neutral" sweet smells actually curbed appetite.

To test this theory, researchers asked 3,193 overweight people (mostly women) aged 18-64 to inhale a variety of “neutral” sweet smells, including banana, green apple, vanilla, and peppermint, three times in each nostril whenever they were hungry.

After 6 months, the participants in this study lost an average of five pounds a month, or 30 pounds in total” (Source: J Neurol, Orthop. Med. Surg., 1995; 16:28-31)

Interesting results - right?

While there are published studies on smell and weight loss, there definitely needs to be more research done in this area, but the idea behind curbing cravings with aroma is an interesting theory.

After all, it makes sense (no pun intended) that once the scent is inhaled, it impacts mood and emotion because our sense of smell is directly related to the part of the brain that controls our emotions.

Smell actually has more impact on the subconscious and emotions than the other senses, and there is little doubt that scent has important roles in human behavior.

If you’ve ever been in the Mall at Christmas time and smell the cinnamon roasting nuts, or, park at a local restaurant and as you’re getting out of the car the smell of grilling meat surrounds you, then you know the power of smell?

I swear you can actually start salivating at the mere smell of some foods!

Our reactions to an aroma largely depend on our experience with it, and what our brain remembers - and what we anticipate the outcome of that smell will be (like a bite of those freshly baked cookies, or the taste of that stuffed Thanksgiving turkey).

The science behind why aromatherapy works meshes your sense of smell with your satiety level. When you inhale through your nose, odor molecules enter your nasal cavity, and eventually reach the olfactory bulb (smell center) located at the top of your nasal cavity (inside your nose).

A separate mechanism within your brain controls satiety, or your “fullness” level.

A portion of the hypothalamus which is called the “satiety center” helps you know whether or not your are full. But how does smell (rather than eating) effect our perception of being “full”?

Airborne odor molecules are filtered through the olfactory bulb, which is connected to the satiety center in your hypothalamus (in your brain).

This satiety center interprets these odor molecules to inform your brain that you have eaten enough and that you are full…and this response is completely separate from responses which are actually driven by eating foods (and which surprisingly take longer).

Additionally, the odor molecule receptors are located in the limbic region of our brain, which is the center of our emotions, and this may help to explain why so many scents can trigger our emotions and memories.

The limbic lobe in turn directly activates the hypothalamus, which houses and controls our satiety center. In other words our nose dictates our hunger level more quickly and more efficiently than our stomach.

I would be interested in hearing from those of you who have tried this, or are willing to try it as part of your weight loss plan.

But please remember this, that weight loss comes down to eating less (consuming less calories) and moving your body (exercise) but if you can find other things that helps YOU on your weight loss journey - let me know how it works for you!

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