Could High Fat Diet lead to reduced Sense of Smell?

By  ,  Onlymyhealth editorial team
Oct 08, 2014

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Quick Bites

  • High-fat diet may reduce the sense of smell in mice.
  • A recent study explored the connection between diet and sense of smell in mice.
  • Mice that fed on fat-rich diet for long took long to adjust to a new smell.
  • Mice on controlled diet had a better sense of smell.

Sense of smell allows you to identify and experience smells. The ability to smell comes from specialized sensory cells called olfactory sensory neurons that are found inside the nose. The cells connect directly to the brain and have several odor receptors. Microscopic molecules from substances stimulate these receptors allowing us to experience a smell. The neurons send messages to the brain which then identifies the smell.

sense of smell

There are more smells in the environment than there are receptors, and any given molecule may stimulate a combination of receptors, creating a unique representation in the brain. These representations are registered by the brain as a particular smell. Several factors can affect your sense of smell but can your eating habits affect your sense of smell too? Well, a group of researchers seems to be moving ahead in the direction to prove that correct.

What Does the study on Mice Say?

A recent study has found a connection between your sense of smell and the amount of fat you include in your diet. According to a study published in the Journal of Neuroscience, a diet rich in fat can bring a noticeable change in the sense of smell in mice.  The team of researchers allowed a group of mice to feed on high-fat diet every day for around six months while another group of mice fed on a controlled diet.


They also made the mice to associate a particular smell with water which was presented to them as a reward.  The study concluded that the mice that ate the fat rich diet during the study took longer to associate a sense of smell with a particular substance than the time taken by mice that fed on controlled diet.It hinted at a reduced sense of smell in mice that fed on the high-fat diet during the study.
Every time the researchers included a new odour to the research see observe how the mice would adjust to the new smell, the mice on the high-fat diets took longer to adjust. The mice on high-fat diet also had a drastic reduction in the number of neurons responsible for handling odour signals. The number of such neurons were reduced to as low as 50%.


What does it tell about us?

It will be too early to say anything about the sense of smell in humans based on this study. The team of researchers is unsure if the study and its observations will apply to humans, however there is a relationship between the olfactory system and our metabolism. The team also plans to determine effect of high-sugar diet on the sense of smell.


Image Courtesy : Getty

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