Curry fans, garlic lovers, kimchi addicts, and cheese enthusiasts, good news: new research says that strong smelling foods — even yummy smelling foods — encourage eaters to take smaller bites.
Dutch researchers used a contraption to feed 10 participants "bites" of vanilla custard — meaning, they fed them with a pump that the eaters could stop with the push of a button. While they measured the amount of custard in each "bite" (aka each pump), the diners got a random whiff of the vanilla smell. The results? The more intense the aroma of vanilla (getting hungry yet?), the smaller the bites they took.
The reason smell may play a part in bite sizes, the researchers said, was the self-regulation mechanism the aromas set off in the brain. Said "sensory scientist" Rene de Wijk to TIME, "It could be that people are self-regulating, and that with a more intense odor, we take instinctively smaller bites to avoid strong sensations."
Though it might sound gag-inducing to get a large whiff of the food you're eating, researchers say the concentrations of smell were very small. Though the effect was subtle, they say, the smaller bites could add up over time. The breakthrough could be used in further studies to study how smell affects portion control and weight loss. And no, taking a whiff of a smelly cheese isn't going to make you stop eating gelato: The researchers said though they haven't tested a combination of smells, it was likely the self-regulation mechanism would only work if the smell "fit" the food they were eating.