WEDNESDAY, March 21, 2012 (HealthDay News) -- Strong smells lead people to take smaller bites of food, which suggests that aroma might be used as a way to control portion size, new research suggests.
The study included volunteers who ate a custard-like dessert while they were exposed to different scents. The stronger the smell, the smaller the participants' bites of food, the Dutch researchers found.
The study was published March 20 in the journal Flavour.
The volunteers were able to control how much dessert was fed to them by pushing a button. "Bite size was associated with the aroma presented for that bite and also for subsequent bites [especially for the second-to-last bite]," study leader Dr. Rene de Wijk said in a journal news release. Perhaps, in keeping with the idea that smaller bites are associated with lower flavor sensations, there is an unconscious feedback loop using bite size to regulate the amount of flavor experienced, de Wijk explained.
The findings suggest that manipulating the aroma of food could lead to a 5 percent to 10 percent decrease in food intake per bite, according to the researchers. Combining aroma control with portion control could trick the body into thinking it was full after consuming a smaller amount of food, an approach that could help people lose weight, they said.
However, while the research is intriguing, it does not prove that preparing aromatic foods will help anyone lose weight.
The U.S. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases has more about food portions.