We’ve all been there, we’re feeling a bit peckish, looking for lunch, or heading home after a night out when we catch the whiff, or sight, of something that we really know we shouldn’t be eating, we give in, scoff it down, receive that instant gratification, and then regret it later.
But according to new research there’s an easy way to resist the allure of junk food, this research, published in the Journal of Marketing Research, states that basking in the smell of junk food for two minutes can help you make healthier food choices.
Researchers found, during a series of experiments, a relationship between scents and the food choices we make. They found that people who smelt junk food or other indulgent foods were less likely to purchase or choose these unhealthy options than people who smelled more healthy or nutritious options such as fruits. To build on this research they tested it by pumping scents into a series of differing environments such as school cafeterias, a grocery store, and a laboratory.
For example, the researchers found that when the smell of pizza was pumped into a school cafeteria unhealthy food choices were lower than when a healthy apple smell was used, the pizza smell saw 21% of food purchased to be unhealthy whilst the apple smell attained a 40% unhealthy choice hit rate – 4% more than a scent free day.
Whilst obviously there still a lot of work to be done in this area it would appear that one trick we should try to use ourselves is to smell unhealthy food choices long enough to push through our initial cravings, we also like to think this will give us enough time for our own will to kick in and for us to remember that no, we really shouldn’t be treating ourselves to yet more cake!
The researchers also exposed test subjects to smells for varying amounts of time, sure enough they found that people exposed to cookie scent for less than 30 seconds were more likely to choose the treat, whilst those exposed to the smell for longer than 2 minutes were more likely to choose a healthier choice.The research basically suggests that the delicious junk food smell we all love can pique our cravings, but with enough time it can also be enough to satisfy those same cravings.
The researchers write that “we propose that this occurs because scents related to an indulgent food satisfy the reward circuitry in the brain, which in turn reduces the urge for actual consumption of indulgent foods.”
So next time you’re eating out, searching for lunch, browsing for a snack, or generally feeling peckish, pause before you enter a shop or place an order, and instead take in the smell, enjoy that aroma, and remember, in the long run you’ll be better off going with the healthier option. That extra minute or so may just be what you require to make a healthier choice.
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