Maybe this has happened to you. You catch a whiff of fried food and now that’s all you want, despite knowing it’s loaded with fat and breading. Turns out there’s an ally to boost your resistance: the same nose that’s causing the craving.
The scent of food can trigger desire, but if you breathe it in for longer than two minutes, that alone may satisfy your urges. That’s because the brain does not make a distinction when it comes to the source of sensory pleasure, University of South Florida researchers have found. The amount of time someone spends smelling food is linked to whether they ultimately indulge, according to findings published in the Journal of Marketing Research.
The researchers exposed study participants to a range of food including cookies, pizza and apples. Those who smelled cookies for less than 30 seconds were more likely to want one than those who inhaled the scent for two minutes. In fact, those who smelled the cookies for a longer time were more likely to choose fruit.
The same results were seen when apples and pizza were tested in a middle school cafeteria. On the days when pizza was used as the scent, students were 15 percent less likely to make unhealthy food choices than the days when an apple scent was used. Non-indulgent foods are less fragrant, so they may be less likely to influence what we eat because the brain does not associate the scent with a pleasurable reward, the study found.
When it comes to food cravings, let your nose be your guide. If you smell food that triggers an urge to eat, don’t fight the craving. Inhale deeply and give your brain a chance to feel satisfied. Your mouth can sit this one out.