How to stop craving junk food in 2 minutes
(NaturalHealth365) A fascinating study out of the University of South Florida in Tampa has uncovered some surprising findings related to food aromas and cravings. The study was conducted to gain marketing insights but has implications for anyone looking to reduce their junk food impulses.
The research out of Florida was focused on how the scent of food might influence our food choices. More specifically, the researchers wanted to see how various food smells impacted healthy vs. unhealthy food selections. (the results were surprising!)
The smell of junk food – for at least 2 minutes – has an unexpected effect on food cravings
During the experiments, the researchers exposed participants to the aromas of either healthy or unhealthy foods. Healthy food smells included strawberries and apples; while unhealthy choices included pizza and cookies.
The results ran counter to what most people would expect. Initially, people exposed to the smell of unhealthy food for 30 seconds were more likely to make an unhealthy meal or snack choice. However, when they were exposed to it for 2 or more minutes, they tended to make healthier food choices.
One of the experiments was held at a middle school cafeteria with 900 children. Over 3 days, the children were either exposed to: an ambient aroma of apples, an ambient aroma of pizza, and a control condition with no scent.
The researchers used nebulizers and exposed the children to the aromas for at least 2 minutes as they stood in the line to order food for lunch.
Exposure to junk food scents have a remarkable effect on the brain’s reward center
When the apple aroma was present, 37 percent of items ordered were unhealthy or junk food. On the control day, a similar percentage of items sold were unhealthy. By contrast, when the children were exposed to the pizza aroma for 2 minutes or longer, just over 21 percent bought unhealthy choices such as junk food.
The researchers believe that since there is a strong correlation between smell and taste, extended exposure to an indulgent food satisfies the brain’s reward center. This, in turn, reduces cravings for eating unhealthy foods such as junk food.
A second experiment tested exposure to a strawberry scent versus the fragrance of cookies. After 2 minutes of exposure to one scent or the other, the participants were offered either cookies or strawberries.
Interesting option: Try to keep decadent food scents around the home to promote healthy eating
Back to our ‘cookie’ experiment, the children exposed to the unhealthy choice (cookies) were more likely to reach for the strawberries. These results were mirrored in grocery store shopper habits exposed to either scent. The two minute time threshold seemed to be key.
In recent years, ambient smells have been used by businesses to draw in customers and influence buying behavior. Restaurants and food companies capitalize on customer reactions to food aromas to draw interest in their products.
However, even non-food-related businesses are capitalizing on the psychology of smell. The Samsung company pumps the aroma of honeydew melon into their flagship store in NYC.
The results of this research have very promising implications for reducing unhealthy food cravings and making healthier food choices naturally. Although it may seem ‘risky,’ you just may find that the smell of fresh baked cookies, in the home, could lead to healthier food choices. (just don’t eat them)
Another ‘million dollar idea’ would be if someone could invent a naturally-scented candle – that gave off the scent of cookies – to reduce unhealthy food cravings.
Editor’s note: There’s obviously a little humor – in the last comment by Dena. But, this study does illustrate how easily an initial impulse to eat unhealthy food can be overcome – by simply waiting a little longer for the craving to have “less control” over your life.
Sources for this article include:
Food & Nutrition
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