Smelling Food for a Few Minutes Can Satisfy Cravings

Category: Human Interest


Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article.

  1. indulgent / ɪnˈdʌlʤənt / (adj) – describing someone or something that encourages pleasure

    The chocolate cake looks indulgent!

  2. satiate / ˈseɪʃiˌeɪt / (v) – to satisfy someone or something

    The refreshing fruit juice satiated my thirst.

  3. ambient / ˈæmbijənt / (adj) – describing something that creates a certain mood

    The café’s ambient music helped me relax.

  4. hypothesize / ˌhaɪˈpɑːθəˌsaɪz / (v) – to propose an idea

    The researchers hypothesized that his lack of social interaction caused his depression.

  5. commend / kəˈmɛnd / (v) – to formally recognize someone or something in a positive way

    The doctor commended the intern for assisting the medical team well during the surgery.


Read the text below.

A new study revealed that smelling scents of indulgent food can help satiate people’s food cravings.

University of South Florida researchers examined how ambient scents, which are often used as a marketing tool to persuade people to buy products, affect people’s food choices. To determine how scents influence people’s food purchasing decisions, the research team conducted experiments in places like a middle school cafeteria and a supermarket.

In the experiments, the participants were exposed to scents of both indulgent and healthy food. Those in the school cafeteria were exposed to pizza and apple scents, while those in the supermarket smelled cookie and strawberry scents.

Results revealed that participants bought fewer unhealthy meals when they were exposed to scents of indulgent food, such as pizza, for more than two minutes. Similarly, in the supermarket experiment, shoppers picked healthier food selections after smelling cookies as opposed to when they smelled strawberries.

The researchers therefore concluded that extended exposure to scents of indulgent food lowered the participants’ preference for unhealthy food. They hypothesized that smelling these scents for over two minutes activates pleasure in the brain’s reward center.  As a result, there is reduced craving for indulgent food. Essentially, without actually eating, smelling indulgent food for a longer time could help people fight their cravings.

Aisling Pigott [ASH-ling PIH-gut], a dietitian not involved in the study, commended the research. However, she suggested that it should be conducted in different environments to prove a stronger link between scents and food cravings.

While the researchers recognized the limitations of the study, they hope that it can lead to further research on the matter.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.

Discussion A

• Would you be willing to participate in the study? Why or why not?
• If you could conduct a similar experiment, where would you hold it (e.g. in a restaurant)? Why?

Discussion B

• What do you think is the value of knowing the link between scents and food cravings? Explain.
• In what other ways can scents help people aside from satisfying food cravings (e.g. relaxation)? Discuss.