Don’t go rushing for the nose plugs just yet — context is important for this weight loss study.
A group of researchers got curious about the effect of smell on the amount of weight you retain. Apparently, losing your sense of smell and staying thin sounds healthier than maintaining all your senses and a slight muffin top over your jeans. Hm, they speculated, maybe the rich and fresh smell of the bakery in the morning is the reason my daily croissant is putting on the pounds.
So they gathered some mice, messed with their noses, and began closely observing. Maybe, just maybe, we can all keep the pounds off eating the same amount of food just by refraining from smelling it. (Of course, my imagination is being gratuitous here. Who knows why they started this odd study?)
Regardless, the results confirmed it: Mice who completely lost their sense of smell burned tons more fat and became lean, muscular, jittery balls of nerves. Mice who indulged in the odors of their favorite foods accumulated fat around their thighs and bellies, calm, cool, and collected. All the mice involved ate the same amount and type of food.
So does our sense of smell make us fatter?
Maybe. The mice with a hypersensitive sense of smell did gain more weight than the mice experiencing smells of average intensity. But the mice who lost their sense of smell and lost weight also exhibited high, raging levels of adrenaline — a panic hormone that burns fat and sends your metabolism racing.
If you’re laughing, don’t feel badly. We think this is hilarious, too. Essentially, the mice were so freaked out that they couldn’t smell anything that they lost tons of weight. They obtained muscular, fight-ready bodies and turned their bodies into tense, hormonal frames.
We think it’s a bit of a stretch to use this data to justify banishing our olfactory nerves altogether.
Don’t you think that the panicked mice were feeling a little less healthy than the mice that were pleasantly plump? Honestly, next thing we know scientists will be recommending “panic diets.” Did you know adrenaline could make you lose weight?! So can chemotherapy! Let’s all do that.
Céline Riera, one of the lead authors of the study, reminded readers of the study that humans who lose their sense of smell because of age, injury, or diseases such as Parkinson’s often become anorexic and experience intense depression — quite the problematic health outcome.
This serves as yet another reminder that weight gain has little to nothing to do with actual health outcomes. Digging in the caves of our noses with scalpels is not the answer that will get America healthy again.