“I can gain weight just smelling food” Myth or Science?


I had the flu this past February and my sense of smell almost completely disappeared during the sinus phase of it. After I fully recovered from all the other symptoms – which took about a month - my sense of smell remained greatly diminished. I can smell some things but not others and the sensitivity is way down. Google informs me this can happen after a viral infection, and that it may improve over time.

Now I’m wondering if this is actually helping me with a reduction in appetite. Food smells always used to trigger my urge to eat even when I wasn’t really hungry.

Since our results indicated that reducing olfactory sensitivity is associated with improved metabolic fitness, we investigated whether the converse manipulation of olfactory acuity would worsen metabolic health.
…As the olfactory bulb contains a high density of insulin receptors, leptin receptors and other endocrine hormone receptors, we considered that hormonal inputs might be able to adjust olfactory perception.
…increased body weight was accompanied by excessive adipose tissue mass in the gonadal and inguinal fat depots. Particularly, the gonadal fat pad had enlarged adipocytes compared to control animals, accompanied by non-significant reduction in energy expenditure, oxygen consumption, and respiratory quotient. Importantly, adipose expansion was independent of food intake, which remained unchanged compared to controls. https://www.cell.com/cell-metabolism/fulltext/S1550-4131(17)30357-1?fbclid=IwAR1gbff9tZGyYEFnW2VdXz_DAtbjHPB9j-ZKGtl1UeI-8B4aZPe0HiPv5f8

(John) #2

Supposedly much of our sense of taste is just an extension of our sense of smell.

If we eat sometimes not because we are hungry, but instead want a pleasurable taste (smell) sensation, then not being able to taste things probably dulls or extinguishes that non-hunger trigger.


Yes, fortunately my basic taste senses are functioning. It would be horrible if I couldn’t taste some nice umami ribeye. I’m less likely to smell what other people are eating from a distance though, which is helping I think.

(Scott) #4

Only if I can get drunk looking at a beer!


I can want beer from looking at beer.

(Carl Keller) #6

I don’t think we can literally gain weight just from just smelling food but it can cause us to salivate, get our gastric juices jumping, trigger our insulin to rise and get us better primed to store fat. This is called a cephalic response or phase and even the sight of food can provoke it.

I found this experiment rather interesting:

three groups of mice — a regular set, a set whose sense of smell was briefly disabled, and a third set of “super-smellers” — were all fed what the authors call a high-fat “Burger King diet,” but the mice with messed-up olfactory systems barely gained any weight at all, especially compared to the other groups.

The normal mice literally doubled in size as they worked their way through this all-Whopper-style meal plan, while the mice that couldn’t smell only put on 10 percent more weight. Also, fat mice would shrink back to appropriate size once their sense of smell got wiped out — they didn’t change their diet, and the lost weight was virtually all from fat.

This jokingly provokes me to picture myself plugging my nose before eating.


Hey, I remember hearing something like that a long time ago. Likely it was a Tim Ferriss hack.

(Robert C) #8
  • You can gain weight by not sleeping (0 calories there - seems like sleeping less means burning more calories in fact - doesn’t work that way).
  • You can gain weight because of a stressful boss (0 calories there).
  • You can gain weight by smelling food that triggers fat storage hormones into action (0 calories from the smell).

For these, fat storage is based on changing the way your body is dealing with the in-process previous or current food intake. (Not a doctor - this is all based on what I’ve gathered so far.)


I saw a show on tv, back before the internet had a thing called YouTube, where they had an electrode in a woman’s brain and they could change her perception along a hunger-nausea spectrum by stimulating it in various ways. Hypothalamus, I figure.
I feel like a puppet to my hormones.

(Robert C) #10

UR :grinning:

Go to the supermarket and buy a big bag of your favorite chips - Doritos, Sour Cream & Cheddar Ruffles - whatever it was before Keto.

Go home, sit at your computer, open the bag next to your keyboard - don’t eat any.

(Carl Keller) #11

If this were true, it’s the answer to world hunger. Just let the starving get a whiff of something delicious and they will get fat without having to feed them.

(Robert C) #12

I think you still have to have some intake so that your changed hormones will store more instead of less.

Just like having everyone have messed up sleep wouldn’t solve the world’s hunger problem, it would just make those that have food become fatter (with the same food intake) because of the messed up hormones.


That’s not much different from sitting next to a certain someone watching tv and munching on chips. I have to say, it is much easier with diminished sense of smell. I can barely smell fried chicken any more if I’m not right next to it.

(Carl Keller) #14

I can agree to that.

(Robert C) #15

I wonder if the opposite works?
Will smelling a bucket of vomit cause less fat storage?
It seems like it would affect hormones - at least turn off ghrelin (I assume).

(Carl Keller) #16

For sure. A gas station bathroom or an overflowing sewer would work as an appetite suppresant. Maybe we can put these scents into candles and market them as weight loss aids. :smiley:


The Roadkill Diet? Now there’s a weight loss plan that costs nothing but a little gas money.

(Robert C) #18

A little gas money and a spatula.

(Carl Keller) #19

Ever wondered what happens to roadkill?


I prefer to fix my own vittles.