The Science of Scents: Scents May Actually Help you Burn More Calories

Scents for Fat Loss

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New research says some scents may actually help you burn calories, according to a study reported in Fitness magazine. You might feel this is one of those "Ripley's Believe It Or Not" stories but, believe it or not, researchers found that inhaling certain pleasant scents such as strawberry or popcorn drenched in butter can actually help aerobic exercisers bum more calories than either bad odors or the absence of any scents.

Why? Researchers theorize that pleasant smells may put people in a more alert, positive mood for exercise, or they may work directly on the brain to increase workout efficiency. "We're not suggesting that you set a bucket of buttered popcorn beside the StairMaster the magazine says, "but slathering some strawberry lip balm before exercising can't hurt."

As well, a growing body of research suggests that scents have the power to influence our moods, inflame our passions, stimulate creativity, perk us up or mellow us out. Science and companies are spending big money to discover scents which can make us feel better, work harder, and even spend more money more freely.

Scientists have always known that scent can be one of the strongest triggers of emotions and long-term memories (even deeply buried memories), and that scents can be strongly related to emotions and memories. Mood and behavior are also strongly influenced by a sense of smell. If your first girl friend, for example, wore a certain pet fume, smelling that perfume again - even 15 or 20 years later- on someone else can trigger strong physical and emotional reactions once more. If she dumped you and hurt your feelings, you may immediately feel the heartache and pain again. The smell of gum from a pack of baseball cards might dredge up memories of childhood baseball games or certain friends you haven't seen in many' years, and good or bad feelings you had about those friends. The smell of suntan lotion and chlorine might take you back to swimming at a pool with friends. The smell of pine needles may evoke memories of a hike through a forest. We all recognize the special smell of the inside of a new car- so used-car dealers artificially put that smell into their showrooms and their used cars.

Certain foods and scents can even increase sexual desire. Dr Alan Hirsch, a Chicago neurologist, claims he was earnestly trying to find if scent might be used to cure impotence when he began his "blood enhance agent" study. The implications for the perfume industry seemed obvious. Hirsch put blood-pressure cuffs on the penises of ma le medical students who took part in his study to measure increased blood flow to the penis, indicative of arousal and erections. He then exposed the students to certain scents to see which, if any, increased sexual arousal.

Using what he considered likely sexual scent triggers, such as some well-known perfumes (e.g. Calvin Klein's Obsession and Chanel Number 5), along with lavender, roses and other highly likely scents, he exposed the students to each scent and measured blood flow. For a control he exposed the students to smells of black licorice and freshly baked cinnamon buns. To his amazement the smell of the cinnamon buns gave the students the quickest erections - far more than any perfume or flower.

"That told us two things," Hirsch says. "Number one, medical students are always hungry. Number two, the quickest way to a man's heart really is through his stomach."

Intrigued by the first study, Hirsch conducted a second more thorough experiment. This time he used 31 subjects ranging in age from 18 to 64. Unerotic assistants exposed the subjects' olfactory senses to 41 different odors - nothing nasty or distasteful but nothing which would normally be described as sexy either.

The scent that increased blood flow and swelling of their penises the most was once again food. The pumpkin pie and lavender combination raised penile blood flow by a whopping 40 percent. Parsley was very effective too, as were pink grapefruit and cranberries. The foods that increased arousal the greatest in order were pink grapefruit, chocolate, strawberry, cinnamon buns, parsley, cheese pizza, roasting meat, peppermint, vanilla and buffered popcorn. Licorice - black, not red - was effective too.

Not everyone in the science community agrees with Hirsch's work, however. Dr. Charles Wysocki, a pheromone expert, was highly skeptical. He says that there are no demonstrated aphrodisiac smells for humans, period. Animals mate and breed because of the powerful influence of pheromones, but whether humans are affected the same way is very debatable. Wysocki doubts that scents can dictate or influence human behavior because of the complexity of humans and their many differences.

Despite Dr. Wysocki's skepticism, many manufacturers of male colognes and female perfumes advertise the fact that their products contain human pheromones which will greatly increase attraction from the opposite sex. One company called "Close?' even offers a mouthwash that contains pheromones. The ad for Closer, which runs in most women's magazines such as Complete Woman, Today's Woman, Woman's Lue, and New Woman, says, "One kiss - from you - will not he enough! Here's Closer, the mouthwash you may want to bathe in!" The makers of Closer claim: "Based on the chemistry of pheromones, Closer is a new mouthwash with but one purpose - to make the opposite sex want to kiss you and kiss you and kiss you. Truly." Closer has a money-back guarantee to improve your love life and to make anyone kissing you want to keep on kissing you. In short, they promise to make you virtually irresistible to the opposite sex.

Having never tried the stuff, I can't vouch for its effectiveness. But hey, I'm totally willing and able to he a volunteer to study and test Closer's claims. I suggest that the makers of Closer involve me in a scientific study with certain women to determine how well Closer actually works. They could bring together a group of women - say, oh, Penny Price, Debbie Kruck, Amy Fadhli, Jana Holmes, Kim Peterson, Sherilyn Godreau, and maybe another half-dozen of the top fitness champions, with a few Playboy centerfolds thrown in for good measure - to test just how well this stuff works on me. I promise to donate and devote my lips to such a study - all in the name of science, of course. I could spend a couple of nights, err, hours, with each woman - so much time kissing them after they've used regular mouthwash and so much time kissing them after they've used Closer. Then I'll objectively be able to compare results and tell if the product delivers as promised.

Getting back to reality (Earth to Zulie, Earth to idle), Hirsch has also done studies that show not only do certain scents increase sexual arousal, make us more alert, and motivate us to work faster, but they also influence our spending decisions when shopping. In one experiment, shoppers in a floral-scented lab said they'd be willing to pay an average of$ 10.33 more for a pair of sneakers than did shoppers considering the same purchase in an unscented room. When a Las Vegas casino was infused with a pleasant odor, gamblers dropped 45 to 53 percent more money than those in an unscented room. "The more intense the fragrance, the more money they spent," says Hirsch.

Even aromas so faint that subjects were not consciously aware of them had influence on their actions. In the sneaker study subjects questioned when the scent was undetectable said they too would spend more for the shoes.

Hirsch also found that patients of his who suffered from depression, anxiety and other mental disorders could not smell as well as "normal" people. Not surprisingly, research indicates that women are more sensitive to smell than men (especially about offensive body odor and bad breath - male suitors take notice), and nonsmokers are more sensitive than smokers. Response to fragrance also differs with age. In a study of 989 subjects Hirsch found that older people were more likely to spend money when exposed to natural scents such as pine or hay. Consumers born after 1960 spend more when they get a whiff of artificial aromas, such as plastic, felt-tip markers or Play-Doh. The next time you're out spending money or looking for a date, take a few moments to consider whether you're being led by your nose.

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