The Sweet Smell of Weight Loss
Saturday, May 21st 2005
Doctor certainly knows how to sniff out the way to attract health-conscious customers
Can we sniff our way to a thinner body?
An American psychiatrist and neurologist says "Yes"
But Australian experts warn: "Don't hold your breath"
Alan Hirsch has been in Australia promoting his belief that pleasant smells, such as banana, green apple and peppermint, can help people to shed kilograms.
He also claims the combined aroma of lavender and pumpkin pie enhances penile blood flow, and a mixed floral scent improves learning ability in children.
Dr Hirsch has developed an over-the-counter weight-loss product called SLIMist, containing an oral spray and scented inhalers. It is being marketed in Australia but is not yet available in the United Stated.
The director of Smell and Taste Treatment and Research Foundation in Chicago says he first came up with the idea that smell may be related to weight when he noticed patients who had lost their sense of smell put on extra kilos.
"I figured that if, when you lose your sense of smell, you gain weight, maybe if we give people extra smell they'll lose weight."
"It made some anatomic sense because there's a direct connection between the olfactory bulb at the top of the brain, the central medial nucleus of the hypothalamus."
Dr Hirsch bases his weight-loss theory on an observational study of more than 3000 overweight Americans who used the inhalers for six months in the mid-1990s when they felt hungry.
It found that those with a good sense of smell, who used the inhalers frequently, ate two to fours meals a day, felt bad about overeating but didn't feel bad about themselves, lost 2 per cent of bodyweight a month.
Dr Hirsch says he is still unsure why the smells work in some people.
"Maybe the odours induce weight loss by acting as a displacement mechanism, so instead of grabbing the doughnut they grabbed the inhaler."
Australian olfactory researcher Graham Bell, an associate professor in medical sciences at the University of NSW, says the research on which Dr Hirsch bases his theory is "totally inadequate".
"I'm sorry to say that a medical colleague has come up with a weak piece of evidence upon which he is basing quite a large campaign to make money."
Nutritionist Rosemary Stanton said: "There's no clinical research studies that show SLIMist works. He'll make a lot of money and laugh all the way to the bank."
Sourced from the New Zealand Herald 21 May 2005
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