A high-fat diet could impede sense of smell, scientists claim

A team of researchers at Florida State University say they have found a link between a bad diet and a reduced sense of smell

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The Independent Online

Dining on a diet of fatty foods reduces our ability to smell, scientists have claimed.

Researchers from Florida State University say they have found a demonstrable link between a bad diet and “major structural and functional changes in the olfactory system, which gives us our sense of smell.”

The team says it has uncovered links between obesity and bodily functions that are not usually married with one another.

It was first time that a “solid link” was discovered between a bad diet and loss of smell, which “opens up a lot of possibilities for obesity research,” PhD researcher Nicolas Thiebaud said.

Mr Thiebaud led the study with Professor Debra Ann Fadool and their work was published in the Journal of Neuroscience.

An abstract from the article says: “Currently, 65 percent of Americans are overweight, which leads to well-supported cardiovascular and cognitive declines.

“Little, however, is known concerning obesity's impact on sensory systems.”

The team also said that because our sense of smell is used to guide food choice, if its strength or ability is hampered by bad foods then that could result in a vicious circle, perpetuating “poor ingestive behaviours.”

Mice were given a high-fat diet over six months, while also being taught to associate between odours with the impetus of a reward – water.

The mice with a high-fat diet were slower to learn the association than the those who ate normally, while also unable to quickly adapt to a new odour.

“Moreover, when high-fat-reared mice were placed on a diet of control chow during which they returned to normal body weight and blood chemistry, mice still had reduced olfactory capacities,” Ms Fadool said.

“Mice exposed to high-fat diets only had 50 per cent of the neurons that could operate to encode odour signals.”

The team would now like to look at whether a high-sugar diet could also result in the same negative effects on smell.