Scientists sniff out obesity clue
Imagine the mouth-watering aroma of fresh-baked bread - now examine your waistline.
Notice a connection?
Scientists have discovered that obese people can imagine smells more vividly than those who are slim.
They believe differences in our ability to dream up odours - especially those that whet the appetite - may play a role in food cravings.
Previous research has shown that food cravings occur more often in obese individuals.
Researchers theorised that having a vivid imagination when it comes to smell may intensify desire for food by conjuring stronger thoughts of flavours and aromas.
People are known to vary greatly in their ability to imagine smells of all kinds, whether it be baked bread, chocolate or the sweet scent of roses.
In the study, volunteers completed a series of questionnaires that asked them to imagine both visual and odour cues and then rate their vividness.
Participants with a higher body mass index (BMI) reported a greater ability to imagine both food and non-food odours vividly.
Lead scientist Dr Barkha Patel, from Yale School of Medicine in the US, said: "These findings highlight the need for a more individualistic approach in identifying factors that may increase risk for weight gain."
Future research should focus on objective ways of measuring smell ability rather than relying on self-reported ratings, said the authors.
The research was presented at Society for Ingestive Behaviour's annual meeting in Denver, US.