Overweight People’s Enhanced Sensitivity to Food Odours Could Contribute to Weight Gain

Researchers from the University of Portsmouth have found that overweight people may have a keener sense of smell for food. This, they speculate, could explain why it is difficult for some people to stay slim.

The study involved 64 volunteers, whose smelling abilities researchers tested. They found that people tend to have a more acute sense of smell for food after they have eaten, as opposed to when they are hungry. They explain this counter-intuitive finding by suggesting that heightened smell may be the body's way of detecting and rejecting foods that it no longer needed, stopping people from over-eating.

The researchers found that people who are overweight far an especially heightened sensitivity for the smell of food compared to slimmer people after they have eaten a full meal. They suggest that in people with a propensity to gain weight, the enhanced sense of smell may actually encourage greater food intake. For overweight people, the sensitivity to food odours could be sustaining, rather than deterring, food intake by making it more appetising.

"Hopefully this research will stimulate more work in this area with the potential to help those who struggle with their weight and those who treat people with weight problems", concluded lead researcher Dr. Lorenzo Stafford.