Can strong-smelling foods help you lose weight?
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There are many suggestions on how to lose weight. Eat less. Exercise more. Eat less of certain food groups. Eat more salad. Reduce portion size. Take smaller bites. Chew more thoroughly. Drink lots of water.
New research from the Netherlands suggests that there's a link between the smell of food and how much you eat. While this may have you quoting that line about no bowel movements and a certain Mr Holmes of Baker Street, the new theory is actually that strong aromas lead to smaller bite sizes, which are often linked to the sensation of feeling fuller sooner. The logic then, from the research published today in BioMed Central's journal Flavour, is that aroma may be used as a means to control portion size.
Contrary to logic?
"That's quite a leap," says Wilma Kirsten BSc(Hons) Dip CNE MBANT INLPTA, degree-qualified nutrition consultant, health writer, senior associate of the Royal Society of Medicine, member of the NHS Directory of Complementary Therapists and a full member of BANT (British Association for Applied Nutrition and Nutritional Therapy). In short, Wilma knows her stuff.
"I can't see how strong smells would be off putting," continues Wilma. "What about bacon? Fresh bread? It seems contrary to logic."
The science of smell
To test the theory, the researchers developed a system where a custard-like dessert was eaten while different strengths of a cream aroma were simultaneously presented directly to the participant's nose. According to the findings of the report (Food aroma affects bite size by Rene A de Wijk, Ilse A Polet, Wilbert Boek, Saskia Conraad and Johannes HF Bult), the stronger the smell, the smaller the bite.
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"Our human test subjects were able to control how much dessert was fed to them by pushing a button. Bite size was associated with the aroma presented for that bite and also for subsequent bites. Perhaps, in keeping with the idea that smaller bites are associated with lower flavour sensations from the food, there is an unconscious feedback loop using bite size to regulate the amount of flavour experienced."
Other factors play their part
While the study suggests that manipulating the odour of food could result in a 5-10% decrease in intake per bite, Wilma isn't convinced.
"On the surface, this doesn't seem to hold water, particularly without being fully aware of the specific methods used. Obesity is such a multi-factorial thing, it's not just overeating and underactivity.
"Food is associative so what happens if custard and cream were positive reinforcements growing up?"
Dora Walsh, head nutritionist and founder of nutriheal.net says: "The best way to control your eating is to control your portions. Make each main meal the size of your two hands, ie the size of your stomach, and eat two snacks a day the size of one hand. As long as you eat healthy foods most of the time with the occasional treat then this is the simple way to stay healthy without getting obsessive over how strong the food smells and falling into temptation!"
Perhaps you shouldn't put the lettuce down and the treadmill away just yet, then...
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I don't believe any of these finds.
Try eating Chips, rice and curry sauce laced in msg and watch how much you eat. Now try eating turkey and Vegtables.
When you've completed the test you'll see you're much more full from eating Turkey and Vegtables Than you would be the Chinese.
I did however lose body fat and gain weight when eating a large amount of Chinese last week compared to the smaller portions where I'd lost weight and gained body fat.
Eat more and stop cutting down portion sizes if your body is craving it! Only eat less when you feel like it. Give yourselves the option.
I myself have noticed the link between stronger tasting and smelling food with smaller portion sizes, and therefore less intake, so I do concur with the research.
However, though this is going to sound like I'm joking or being flippant, I do have a better regime that really does work, but you have to be truthful.
Quite simple really, you make a list of all the foods you hate or at least don't like and only eat them, as much as you like! (This of course could be rather restrictive depending on the amount of your dislikes, but if you have this problem, then you put in something that is not as disliked but make it less than a sixth of the overall amount.) Like I say, you have to be truthful, especially with yourself, but it does really work to cut down those portions.