Sniff Your Way to Weight Loss
A fascinating new study suggests that the mere scent of olive oil may be enough to help you cut back on calories and lose weight. Imagine that! Just a whiff of fruity olive oil may help curb your cravings. Of course, I’m a big fan of the Mediterranean diet, and I’ve talked at length about the many benefits of olive oil consumption. Olive oil is integral to life in Europe, and research suggests it’s one of the “secret weapons” of the remarkably healthful Mediterranean diet.
But this latest news suggests the benefits of olive oil go even further. According to scientists at the German Research Center for Food Chemistry, just the scent of olive oil, added to food, caused subjects to consume fewer calories. That’s significant because the key to controlling one’s diet is satiety. Satiety is the feeling of fullness you get when you’re no longer hungry; it makes you less likely to keep eating. Satiety is complicated, though. It involves a number of complex interactions among hormones, blood sugar levels and brain areas devoted to letting you know when it’s time to eat, and when it’s time to stop.
The German study began by looking at four different edible fats/oils: lard (rendered animal fat), butterfat, canola oil and olive oil. Despite identical calorie counts, subjects reported feeling most satisfied when they consumed a standard amount of low-fat yogurt laced with olive oil, rather than any of the other oils/fats. Objectively, subjects in the olive oil group had the highest levels of serotonin in their blood. Serotonin is a brain chemical that’s thought to signal satiety. Researchers then looked at aroma alone. Subjects were divided up and blindly assigned to eat either plain yogurt, or yogurt laced with chemicals that impart aroma to olive oil.
Investigators were surprised by the results. People in the olive oil aroma group ate fewer calories throughout the day, for the duration of the study. And their serotonin levels were higher than the control groups’. “Our findings show that aroma is capable of regulating satiety,” concluded one of the study’s authors. “We hope that this work will pave the way for the development of more effective reduced-fat food products that are nonetheless satiating.”
Schieberle P, Somoza V, et al. Identifying substances that regulate satiety in oils and fats and improving low-fat foodstuffs by adding lipid compounds with a high satiety effect; Key findings of the DFG/AiF cluster project “Perception of fat content and regulating satiety: an approach to developing low-fat foodstuffs”, 2009-2012.