BERKELEY, Calif. (CBS) — A new study reveals that smelling food can cause weight gain.
Researchers from the University of California, Berkeley found that obese mice lost weight when they lost their sense of smell, but mice who still had their sense of smell grew to twice their normal rate.
The researchers broke the mice up into three categories: those that lost their smell, those with a normal sense of smell, and super-smellers.
According to the study, mice that were unable to smell their food ate the same amount of food as the other two groups, but still lost weight.
The mice with a normal sense of smell and the super-smellers got fatter eating the same amount of food as the mice that weren’t able to smell.
Researchers believe mice were able to burn calories rather than store it because they weren’t able to smell the high-fat foods.
“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 senior author Andrew Dillin. “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.”
Céline Riera, a former UC Berkeley postdoctoral fellow who is now at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, said that mice and humans are “more sensitive to smells when they are hungry than after they’ve eaten.”
That could mean that the body could be tricked into thinking it already ate due to the lack of smell.
“This paper is one of the first studies that really shows if we manipulate olfactory inputs we can actually alter how the brain perceives energy balance, and how the brain regulates energy balance,” said Riera.
The study was published in the journal Cell Metabolism.