Eating with your nose

written by Terry Robson


Although restaurateurs and food marketers would have you believe otherwise, you eat and drink in order to provide your body with building blocks and fuel. The rest is adornment, pleasant adornment, but culinary frippery. You might think that how much you eat is determined by the taste of your food but a new study has shown that in fact your nose is at least as important as your taste buds in determining how much you eat and therefore may be able to help you lose weight.

To understand this we need to understand what happens when you eat. Eating is a largely unconscious activity so let’s dissect it a little. Foods are chewed in the mouth as a method of predigestion. As you chew the food is combined with saliva and enzymes and is formed into a “bolus” which is swallowed. The amount of food you take into your mouth each time, the bite size, varies from person to person, from food to food, and even within a food if the consistency of the food changes.

Harder foods are usually eaten in smaller bite sizes. The fuller you feel, the smaller your bite size becomes. Now research has shown that the smell of a food also plays a major role in bite size.

Researchers had volunteers aged between 26 and 50 years old sit in a chair and eat a vanilla custard. They had a special nose-piece fitted which would send varying intensities of creamy dessert smells to them as they ate.

The results showed that the stronger the aroma the people were exposed to, the smaller their bite size. Other research has shown that smaller bite size generally means eating less during a meal. In this case the strong aroma cut bite size by between five and ten per cent.

The possibilities of course, are endless. Instead of losing weight by eating calorie controlled portions you might be able to purchase aroma-enhanced meals that will reduce your bite size and your overall food consumption. That’s in the long term, in the short term it’s very good news for fanciers of anchovies and blue vein cheese.

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Terry Robson

Terry Robson is the editor-in-chief of WellBeing.