A woman smells her delicious food as she eats.

You’re walking down the street one day, and you catch a whiff of your neighbor’s barbecue. You love the smell of grilling hamburgers, and before you know it, you want to eat one yourself. But how does the simple act of smelling food make you hungry?

Why do we want different kinds of food?

Scientists believe that people are conditioned to seek out energy and nutrients through food. Over the course of our lives, we know that different foods will provide different nutrients. People experience five different types of taste: sweet, sour, salty, bitter, and savory. Those tastes roughly correspond to different nutrients. For example, savory foods are thought to have a high protein content, while sweet tastes generally have a high carbohydrate content.

How are smelling food and eating food related?

Taste and smell are closely linked. The tastes we perceive don’t just come from our taste buds, but from our sense of smell, too. When your smell and taste nerves are stimulated, signals are sent to the brain, where they and translated to identify what we are tasting.

When we’re hungry, the brain boosts the sense of smell to improve our chances of finding food. The hungrier you are, the more the cannabinoid receptors in the brain connect the nervous system to the olfactory section of the brain.

Not only does the smell of food make you hungry, but it makes you hungry for that specific type of food. For example, if you smell pizza, you’re going to be more interested in eating pizza. If you smell baking bread, you’ll be more interested in eating bread.

Smells can also make you want a more general type of food and less inclined to have another type of food. For example, if you smell something savory, you’ll more likely want savory foods and be less interested in sweet food.

You don’t even need to be consciously trying to smell something for it to affect your food choices. For example, if you are in a room that smells like fruit, you’ll be more inclined to want to eat something fruity than if you were in a room with no scent at all.

Darrell Klotz, MD

“For millions of years ago we depended on our sense of smell to alert us to the dangers of spoiled food or other troubles,” CEENTA ENT doctor Darrell Klotz, MD, said. “However, in modern times our sense of smell provides a more pleasurable function in allowing us to partake in the gastro-culinary experience of smelling the most delicious, mouthwatering foods so common in our daily social engagement.”

If your mealtime isn’t as enjoyable because your sense of smell or taste isn’t working properly, don’t hesitate to make an appointment with a CEENTA ENT doctor today.

This blog is for informational purposes only. For specific medical questions, please consult your doctor. Dr. Klotz practices in our SouthPark office. Do you need an appointment with an ENT doctor near you? Call 704-295-3000. You can also schedule an appointment online or through myCEENTAchart.


You may also be interested in

A child eats even though the food tastes bland when she's sick
Why does food taste bland when I’m sick?

It just doesn't taste right.

Read More
Woman smelling who does not suffer from smelling loss causes
Dealing With Smelling Loss? Here’s Why

Your smelling loss could be caused by a variety of conditions, including allergies, a deviated septum, illness, or nasal polyps.

Read More
Synesthesia can make many of your senses overlap
Sensing Your Other Senses

Most people are aware of their five senses: sight, touch, taste, smell, and sound. But did you know that these senses can overlap through synesthesia?

Read More

Leave a Comment



Back to News
This website is optimized for more recent web browsers. Please consider these upgrade options: IE10+(IE10+, Chrome Chrome, Firefox Firefox.
 Schedule An Appointment