There is a lot of information out there about the relationship between various foods and weight loss or gain, as well as about the effects of the way various foods on human behavior.
Recent research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition looked at the effect that the aroma of olive oil had on the brain and if those stimuli could trigger responses (increased cerebral blood flow) in certain key areas of the brain.
The researchers evaluated 11 subjects who consumed either plain, low-fat yogurt or low-fat yogurt combined with a fat-free extract of olive oil. The subjects did not know that the olive oil extract was fat-free. After analyzing the groups’ brain activity, the researchers found that the group eating the yogurt with olive oil extract had more activity in their cerebral blood flow—an area of the brain that is typically stimulated by eating fatty foods, despite the fact that the extract was fat-free (this is known as the taste cortex area of the brain).
When these areas of the brain are stimulated by a high-fat meal, they become active and send messages to other areas of the brain regarding hunger, satiety and fullness.
In this case, however, it was the odor of the olive oil that activated this taste cortex in the brain—which means that just smelling olive oil can make you feel full, even when you don’t eat high-fatty foods.
“Dietary fat is rewarding,” said Dr. Andreas Fritsche, co-author of the study. So could we use this as an effective way to help people lose weight?
“If you eat a fat-free aroma extract which is commonly associated with fat, it is possible that you get the rewarding effect of fat-triggered sensations without calories,” said Fritsche.
Hunger and the feelings of fullness are triggered by the smell, taste, appearance and the feel of food in your mouth. Food can cause the secretion of chemicals in our digestive tract which directly act upon specific areas of the brain. As evidenced by this study, your brain can also be directly stimulated by our perceptions of food which can also influence eating behavior.
However, I am not certain whether smelling extra-virgin olive oil would be such a great idea if you were concerned about your weight.
It would be much more advantageous to consume it, as it has many other rather wonderful health benefits which would be totally lost if you simply smelled the extract.
Despite the calories (one tablespoon of olive oil generally contains 100-120 calories), the amount needed to improve health outcomes and control hunger is just two tablespoons per day—hardly enough to worry about. The regular consumption of olive oil can also decrease high cholesterol, blood sugar, blood pressure, and inflammation.
Make the consumption of this valuable and wonderfully-tasting oil a regular nutritional practice!
Cristiano, L., “The Crazy Way Olive Oil Helps You Lose Weight,” Preventionweb site, Sept. 30, 2013; http://prevention.com/weight-loss/weight-loss-tips/crazy-way-olive-oil-helps-you-lose-weight
Fritsche, A., et al., “Olive oil aroma extract modulates cerebral blood flow in gustatory brain areas in humans,” Am J ClinNutr. November 2013.