Dieting can be a nightmare – one sniff of a chocolate or candy bar and all self-control flies out the window. Well, fortunately for struggling dieters, we have some news that may help them to keep their weight loss on track, as it seems that seeing and smelling healthy food could actually help people to reduce the amount of food they eat!
Scent of Healthy Food Is Helpful
To study the impact of seeing and smelling healthy food on dieters, researchers at the University of Leeds recruited 34 women, including 13 who were dieting to lose weight and 21 who were not.
In their first study, researchers asked the women to smell one of two foods – oranges or chocolate. They were then offered a range of cereal bars, chocolate and oranges and invited to eat whatever they liked.
The researchers found that women who were on a diet ate 60% less chocolate, on average, after smelling fresh oranges than they did after smelling chocolate. In non-dieters, there was no difference between the amount of chocolate eaten after smelling oranges or breathing in the scent of chocolate.
Sight of Fresh Fruit May Also Reduce Temptation
In their second study, the researchers recruited 26 dieters and 41 non-dieters and showed them a range of images, some of which were of healthy foods while others were of non-food items such as stationery. The women were then offered a range of sugary and salty snack foods.
Researchers found that dieters who had seen the images of healthy food typically ate less of the unhealthy snacks than those whose images had not been food-related.
Eating Healthy Food Reminds Dieters of Their Goals
Finally, the researchers discovered that eating healthy food can help dieters to reduce their overall calorie intake. When women were given a salad, garlic bread or water as an appetizer, those who ate the salad tended to eat less when offered a main course of pizza than those who had eaten garlic bread or drunk a glass of water.
This was despite the fact that the salads and garlic bread portions were carefully weighed out to ensure they contained the same number of calories. The healthy starter is thought to help in two ways – by reminding dieters of their weight loss goals and by promoting a feeling of fullness for longer.
Dieters Could Benefit From the Findings
The findings could really help dieters who are battling a lack of self-control and motivation, particularly if they are feeling hungry. They suggest that by looking at and smelling healthy foods such as oranges, dieters may be able to improve their self-control and avoid succumbing to temptation.
Researcher Nicola Buckland advises: “When tempted by food, dieters should take a few moments to focus on the sensory properties of healthy food, such as the sight and smell of fruit or salad vegetables. Such healthy food cues can provide an instant reminder to dieters to regulate their intake.” She also suggests keeping healthy foods in the fridge or on the desk at work as a gentle reminder.
Dr Buckland’s study was presented at the annual meeting of the Society for the Study of Ingestive Behavior in New Orleans this week (July 30th). You can find out more about the study by reading the conference abstract.