Smelling Your Food Could Lead to Weight Gain

It may sound weird for some people, but a mouse study by US researchers suggests that smelling your food can make you fat!

smelling food could lead to weight gainThe mouse study conducted at the University of California, Berkeley revealed that obese mice who were genetically engineered to loose their sense of smell lost weight substantially, despite eating the same amount of fat-rich diet as their peers that retained their sense of smell and grew fatter- twice their normal weight.

The research, led by UC Berkeley Molecular and Cell Biology Professor Prof. Andrew Dillin and Céline Riera, shows that the smell of what we consume may determine how our body handles calories. Those who can’t smell their food may burn calories rather than store it, the researchers say.

The findings indicate a major link between the olfactory or smell system and hypothalamus, the region of the brain that controls metabolism.

“Sensory systems play a role in metabolism. Weight gain isn’t purely a measure of the calories taken in; it’s also related to how those calories are perceived,” said Dillin.

For the study, Dillin and Riera studies three groups of rodents: altered mice without the ability to smell, mice with sense of smell and mice with a boosted sense of smell. The researcher-duo used a gene therapy to make a group of mice smell-deficient. They temporarily destroyed the olfactory neurons or smell system in the noses of mice while keeping the stem cells untouched.

Each mice was given the same amount of high-fat diet to eat. The researchers found that the smell-deficient mice lost about 16 percent of their body weight, while the unaltered mice gained weight, despite similar diets.

their weight increased from 25-30 grams to 33 grams, while mice in the control group that retained their olfactory neurons gained around 100 percent of their regular weight, ballooning up to 60 grams.
Mice that were super smellers gained significantly more weight on a standard diet than their counterparts with typical olfactory abilities.

“People with eating disorders sometimes have a hard time controlling how much food they are eating and they have a lot of cravings,” Riera said. “We think olfactory neurons are very important for controlling pleasure of food and if we have a way to modulate this pathway, we might be able to block cravings in these people and help them with managing their food intake.”

“If we can validate this in humans, perhaps we can actually make a drug that doesn’t interfere with smell but still blocks that metabolic circuitry. That would be amazing,” Dillin added.

The research appeared this week in the journal Cell Metabolism.

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