How Your Nose is Key to Successfully Avoiding Junk Food

There appears to be a two-minute mark that must be hit for the craving to subside.

junk food
Give your nose the time your brain needs to bypass a junk food craving. (Getty Images)
Getty Images

A few long, deep inhales of a cheesy pizza or tray of salty fries could be the trick to avoiding these “bad” foods, a new study found.

Published in the Journal of Marketing Research, the study found that basking in the alluring aroma of junk foods for at least two minutes helped people make smarter food choices, Time reported.

In a series of trials, the researchers used a nebulizer to pump the smell of an enticing food, like pizza or cookies, or healthier options like apples, into various rooms like a school cafeteria and a grocery store. Surprisingly, they saw — “time after time” — that after smelling those junk foods, more people were apt to make a healthier food decision as opposed to those who breathed in the fruits.

When the nebulizer was used to pump the smell of pizza into a cafeteria full of 900 students, for example, “21% of food purchases that day were unhealthy choices like chips, hot dogs and fried chicken,” Time reported. But when an apple scent was released on another day, nearly 40% were unhealthy.

“We propose that this occurs because scents related to an indulgent food satisfy the reward circuitry in the brain, which in turn reduces the urge for actual consumption of indulgent foods,” the researchers wrote.

The trick seems to be the amount of time you give yourself to get over the craving. By merely catching a whiff of a bad-for-you food, you might trigger a yearning in your brain. But, the researchers concluded, when you give yourself a few minutes to move on, the healthier option becomes the clear winner.

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