Can Certain Scents Help You Lose Weight?

ByABC News via logo
May 5, 2004, 4:33 PM

C H I C A G O, May 6 -- If you've been sampling all the trendy diets that have hit the U.S. market in the last few years, you probably think you've heard it all before.

But one doctor has got something new and sparkly up his sleeve and it has nothing to do with the low-carb movement that seems to be sweeping the nation.

Edible crystals that smell like cocoa, strawberry, raspberry and banana over food can change the way people eat, said Dr. Alan Hirsch, of the Smell & Taste Treatment and Research Foundation in Chicago. The scent of the crystals has the effect of tricking the brain, he said.

"It fools your brain into thinking you've eaten more and thus you eat less," Hirsch said. "You can eat whatever you want to eat. You eat whatever you normally would eat. You'll feel full faster, you'll eat less."

Hirsch's hypothesis is that by sprinkling everything you eat with these calorie-free crystals crystals that his lab has formulated to smell like certain delectable foods we can trick our brains into thinking we've eaten more than we have. The crystals are not on the market, and are simply being researched at this point. But to simulate the research at home, Hirsch suggests adding spices, garlic, onion and any aromatic fruits and vegetables to your meals to make food more flavorful and aromatic.

The Nose Connection

According to Hirsch, taste is strongly perceived in the nose, or more specifically by the olfactory nerve, which he says is directly linked to the part of the brain that tells us we are full.

"By smelling the smells, their brain perceives: 'I've smelled it, therefore I've eaten it, therefore I better stop eating it. I've overeaten,'" Hirsch said.

The 12 different crystals or powders are divided into two groups: sweet crystals to put on sweet or neutral foods, and salty crystals to put on everything else. The sweet food crystals come in the flavors of cocoa, spearmint, banana, strawberry, raspberry and malt. The salty crystals come in the flavors of taco, cheddar cheese, parmesan cheese, ranch dressing flavor, horseradish and onion.