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Obese People Have Greater Ability to Imagine Smell of Freshly-Baked Cookies

Obese people might be better at vividly imagining the smell of food and non-food items, suggests a new study published in the journal Appetite.

Obese people can imagine the smell of freshly baked cookies better.

Obese people can imagine the smell of freshly baked cookies better.

Obesity might have its perks after all. A new research conducted by scientists from The John B. Pierce Laboratory and the Yale School of Medicine shows how obese people have a relatively greater ability to conjure up vivid imagery of the smell of both food (like popcorn and cookies) and non-food items like flowers. But then, it might be the other way round: clear mental imagery pertaining to food is critical to stimulating and maintaining food cravings.

The researchers of the new study say that food cravings can be kindled not only by the smell and sight of food but also by thinking of it.

Humans have time and again demonstrated how we feel the need to tap into our imagination. This ability of ours can be extended to odours as well, and not just to your favourite place, a dream world, or a song. The diversity among humankind necessitates that we all have varying levels of abilities, and the same goes for that of imagining the smell of food or flowers. This is what has prompted researchers to test whether imagining food odours is correlated with the frequency of experiencing food cravings.

It is to be noted that food cravings have been found to occur more often among obese people, as previous studies have shown. But, this is the first time imagining odours and body weight have been linked.

When the participants of the new study were asked to rate the vividness of both visual and odour cues, it was revealed that those with higher BMI would claim to have a greater perceived ability to create images of food and non-food smells. The authors also explain that a more enhanced ability to imagine odours might sharpen the food craving by conjuring up more vivid images thereof.

Lead author Dr Barkha Patel, therefore, concludes that more personalised methods should be used to identify the reasons behind increased risk of gaining weight.

These findings show that the epidemic of obesity has more aspects to be looked into than we would have thought. By studying the multidimensional factors pertaining to it, experts can hopefully tackle the issue better.


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