New research suggests that exposure to the smells of savoury food can curb your cravings for a salty or greasy snack. Their study could potentially help encourage healthier eating habits at supermarkets or cafeterias by influencing the choices that consumers make. While the study is still new and needs more research done, scientists could be on the right track to discovering how to influence consumer behaviours.
The two-minute trick could be marketed to those trying to lose weight, but it is most helpful when it comes to starting healthier eating habits. This research could be applied to technology that could influence students’ choices when buying food in the cafeteria or parents grocery shopping for the family. Of course, this trick is not the ultimate solution to eating healthier, but it can help keep your diet on track.
The research came out of the University of Florida and was published in the Journal of Marketing Research. The study found that prolonged exposure to a fatty food scent can satisfy one’s craving for it. While a quick whiff of fries will entice your appetite, a prolonged exposure to it will be enough to trigger a reward system in the brain that deems the craving as satisfied. The study was conducted using scent nebulizers at a school canteen and a supermarket, and subjects were exposed to different smells like apples, pizzas, and cookies.
Results showed that when exposed to the apple smell, 36.96% of the 900 kids chose unhealthy items. However, when exposed to a pizza smell, the hungry kids who chose unhealthy items fell to 21.43%. Follow-up tests proved that when exposed to unhealthy food aromas for shorter periods, kids were more enticed to choose the unhealthy food. Researchers hypothesize that this has to do with the link between our sense of smell and taste. Scents of food can either entice us to eat it or make us throw it away, so this link between cravings and smell makes sense.
Researchers still need to conduct further studies, but this initial finding can be used to encourage certain behaviours. Places that want to encourage healthy eating can expose customers to fatty food smells, while those who want to encourage unhealthy food purchases can spray their store with a fresh fruit scent. On an individual level, we can use this science to curb cravings to keep with that New Year’s resolution of a diet. If you’re craving a large pizza and it’s not your cheat day, you can try sitting in a pizza shop for two minutes to see if it curbs your cravings.