Heavier people have a greater sense of smell for food, scientists have said.
Dr Lorenzo Stafford, of the University of Portsmouth’s Department of Psychology, found that people with a higher body mass index (BMI) had a poorer sense of smell for non-food odours and greater sensitivity for the smell of food.
He also found that people had a stronger sense of food smell after eating.
Dr Stafford said: “What these findings suggest are that individuals with higher BMI have impaired sense of smell to odours unrelated to food, consistent with previous research, but when it comes to food odours, the same individuals perform better.
“It could be speculated that for those with a propensity to gain weight, their higher sense of smell for food-related odours might actually play a more active role in food intake.”
The research, published in the latest issue of Chemical Senses, was launched to study if being hungry or full had an impact on people’s ability to distinguish smells.
Dr Stafford found that people have a heightened sense of smell to non-food odours when they are hungry but participants were better at smelling food odours after eating.
When the results were analysed further, he found that compared to those with a low BMI, people with higher BMI had a poorer sense of smell for non-food odours and greater sensitivity to the smell of food.
Dr Stafford explained that scientists do not yet know why people have a greater ability to smell foods when they are full.
But he said that it could be the body’s way of detecting and rejecting foods you no longer need in order to maintain the right energy balance.