Apparently if we turn off our ability to smell, we will be able to eat as much food as we normally do and lose weight. Sounds like a fair trade to me.
Seems weird, right? It’s definitely hard to believe, but the science exists to support this theory. The kinks are still being worked out, but according to Daily Mail, scientists claim mice who could not smell lost more weight than those with their senses intact, despite eating the same amount.
Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley engineered lab mice to lose their sense of smell. They assumed it would fuel weight loss by cutting cravings and therefore decrease the amount of food consumed. To test their theory, the researchers fed the same high-fat diet to two groups of mice: those that could smell and those that could not.
They found that weight loss was linked to lack of smell but surprisingly, it actually had nothing to do with eating fewer calories. The group of mice whose senses were altered ate the same amount as the control group, but still managed a 16% weight loss.
What does this mean? The team says it proves the way our brain perceives calories is what affects weight gain.
“Weight gain isn’t purely a measure of the calories taken in,” the study’s lead author, Andrew Dillin, said. “It’s also related to how those calories are perceived.” Dillin is a professor of molecular and cellular biology.
“It’s one of the most interesting discoveries to come out of my lab,” Dillin said. “What’s happening to those calories?”
The researchers were able to determine that the weight loss was almost entirely from fat.
Dillin told Daily Mail he expected the loss of smell would have some effect on feeding because there is a known link between food consumption and sense of smell, explaining that smell and taste are heightened in anticipation of a meal.
Because the weight loss was so significant, the group of researchers created a similar experiment to confirm their results. Dillin worried that the process killed more than just olfactory sensory neurons, which are the neurons responsible for detecting odors and relaying the information to the brain.
In the second experiment, Dillin and his team altered the neurons with an inhaled virus that had a lower chance of affecting cells outside the olfactory system. The outcome was essentially the same in both experiments, there was just slightly less weight loss in the second one.
The connection to weight loss is still unclear, but Dillin said the mice with no sense of smell had turned on a program to burn fat.
Whether or not humans respond similarly to loss of smell is undetermined. We’ll just have to see.