Scientists at the University of South Florida have published a new study in the Journal of Marketing Research that reports that breathing in fatty-food smells for more than two minutes actually works as a deterrent to overeating—and it could offer a new method of keeping you or your kids on a healthier diet.
The team behind the study suggests exposure to these initially appealing aromas is enough to trigger a reward in the brain that then leaves us satisfied.
"Ambient scent can be a powerful tool to resist cravings for indulgent foods," said one of the researchers, Dipayan Biswas.
"In fact, subtle sensory stimuli like scents can be more effective in influencing children's and adults' food choices than restrictive policies," he said.
Using a scent nebulizer at a school canteen and a supermarket—discreetly disseminating smells such as apples, strawberries, pizzas and cookies—researchers found smells of the more unhealthy foods (pizzas and cookies) made it more likely participants would pick a healthy food.
At a school canteen in the U.S., where about 900 kids arrived for lunch, the number of unhealthy items picked fell to 21.43% with a pizza smell. When they smelled a healthy food—an apple—36.96% picked unhealthy foods compared to 36.54% for no smell at all.