Scents Sense

Can aromatherapy bring you the sweet smell of weight-loss success? We went to an expert to sniff out the truth.
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Smell this and feel more energetic; sniff that and relax. From candles to laundry detergent, there are countless products promising aromatherapy benefits. But can aromatherapy help with weight management? We went to an expert to find out if the key to getting fitter might be right under our noses.

Dr. Alan R. Hirsch, MD, of The Smell & Taste Treatment Center, in Chicago, explains that our sense of smell is directly linked to our appetites in more ways than one. First, scent is key to how much we enjoy what we eat. "Ninety percent of what we think of as taste is actually smell," Dr. Hirsch says. "The tongue can experience only five distinct flavors." The nose, on the other hand, can detect over 10,000 different smells.

Smell and Satiety
Dr. Hirsch also notes that it's likely that the nose, not the stomach, tells the brain that we're full. "The nose has a direct link to the satiety center of the brain," he says. His own research supports this theory. In a recent study, Hirsch found that dieters who ate food with aromas intensified by non-caloric scent sprinkles lost an average of 5.6 pounds over six months, while dieters who ate non-scent-enhanced food gained weight following the same weight-loss plan.

Hirsch says there are several ways to enhance the scent experience of your meals. First, eat your food when it's hot. "Hot food releases more odor molecules," says Hirsch. Next, take the time to really smell the food you eat, savoring the scent of each bite. And finally, you can create your own super-scented foods by adding aroma-rich spices, such as chili powder or cinnamon.

Exercise and Scent
Your nose doesn't just impact your appetite. The right scent could help you get more out of your trip to the gym. In another study, Hirsch discovered that exercisers exposed to the scent of strawberries or buttered popcorn worked out longer and at a higher intensity than people exposed to other scents (or no special scents at all). "We don't know why the scents have this impact yet," says Dr. Hirsch.

Do your own research &150 try different scents to get fired up for your exercise. Some research shows that a whiff of grapefruit gives women energy; other studies found that a hint of green apple can give you more get-up-and-go.

So indulge yourself with the scents you love. They could be doing you more good than you know.

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