Everybody knows that the sense of smell to a large extent governs our appetite. Neurologist Dr. Alan Hirsch has taken this simple truth and used it to help people lose weight without suffering hunger pangs.
"Our sense of smell and our appetite are closely related," says Dr. Hirsch, author of Dr. Hirsch's Guide to Scentsational Weight Loss. "More than 90 percent of taste is smell.”
When you smell food, odor molecules enter the nostrils and reach the olfactory, or smell, center at the top of the nose. The molecules affect the brain's satiety center, located in the hypothalamus, and they send a signal that you've had enough to eat. The molecules trigger the release of hormones that create the sense of fullness even before you get the "stop eating" signal from your stomach. According to Dr. Hirsch, you can fool your brain into thinking you've eaten more than you have, so you feel satisfied while eating less. And as a bonus, you can eat whatever foods you like.
Dr. Hirsch has the scientific evidence to back his theory. He conducted a study involving 3,193 overweight volunteers. Each was given an inhalant containing various herb and fruit scents and was told to inhale three times into each nostril when they felt hungry. "The more people used the device, the more weight they lost," says Hirsch.
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During the six-month study, subjects didn't diet and ate two to four meals each day, yet each month they lost an average of nearly 5 pounds, or 2 percent of their body weight. Some lost up to 18 pounds a month.
"Some people lost so much weight that we had to drop them from the program," Dr. Hirsch said. "They actually became underweight."
The three most effective scents for weight loss were peppermint, green apple, and banana.
Other studies back up the power of scents to aid weight loss. Placebo-controlled research at the Human Neuro-Sensory Laboratory in Washington D.C. found that people who inhaled scents before meals lost an average of 19 pounds in six months while those in the placebo group lost an average of 4 pounds. In a study at Wheeling Jesuit University, participants who sniffed peppermint every two hours for five days ate significantly fewer calories.
If you choose not to lose weight by sniffing specific scents, you can still help tame your appetite by making a conscious effort to smell your food before you eat it, says Dr. Hirsch. You will start stimulating your satiety center before you start eating.
Cooking with highly scented herbs and spices, such as basil, spearmint, vanilla, rosemary, as well as lemon, and orange can also facilitate weight loss.
Dr. Hirsch has created a weight-loss program called SENSA, also known as The Sprinkle Diet, that uses Sensa Tastants – a blend of tastes and flavors in crystals – to curb eating. The product is sprinkled on food and works with your sense of smell to signal the satiety center of the brain to release appetite-suppressing hormones.
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