Browsing the bakery may spell out an unplanned cheat meal, but who knew that just enjoying the aromas of freshly-baked bagels and chocolate chip muffins can also widen your waistline? Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, recently discovered that obese mice who lost their sense of smell and were fed a high-fat diet also happened to lose weight. What’s more, mice who retained their sniffing capabilities and ate the same fatty food doubled their weight—while mice with a boosted sense of smell gained the most weight on the same fatty diet.
It turns out that the mice who were temporarily robbed of their sniffing sense burned calories fast due to their upregulated fat-frying sympathetic nervous system. The mice turned their beige fat cells (subcutaneous fat storage cells around the thighs and midriffs) into brown fat cells, which burn fat to produce heat. Some mice’s beige fat almost fully turned into fat-scorching brown fat, while their white fat cells (that pad internal organs and can lead to health issues) also shrank in size. In addition to losing weight, the obese mice regulated their glucose tolerance and therefore reduced their risk of diabetes.
So what does this mean for us humans? If you can’t get a good whiff of your burger, you may burn the beef and bun rather than store it and even lessen your chances of being a victim of diabetes. “Sensory systems play a role in metabolism. Weight gain isn’t purely a measure of the calories taken in; it’s also related to how those calories are perceived,” said senior author Andrew Dillin, the Thomas and Stacey Siebel Distinguished Chair in Stem Cell Research, professor of molecular and cell biology and Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator. “If we can validate this in humans, perhaps we can actually make a drug that doesn’t interfere with smell but still blocks that metabolic circuitry. That would be amazing.”
So if you’ve been sticking your nose into that jar of cookies instead of dunking a few into a glass of milk, close the lid and check out these 50 Ways to Lose 10 Pounds—Fast.