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How does sense of smell affect appetite?

Scientists have long recognized a link between people's senses of smell and taste, and new research more closely examines how a person's olfactory abilities can contribute to his or her overall health. Seniors may discover that their level of hunger is also affected by a diminished sense of smell, resulting from the natural aging process or an external factor. 

Linking smell and hunger
Scientists at French biomedical and public health research organization Institut National de la Santé et de la Recherche Médicale (INSERM) recently published findings that could explain how hunger relates to smell. According to the INSERM website, the researchers conducted a lab study in which mice's brains were examined while various senses were stimulated. When hunger was induced in the animals, scientists were able to spot receptors where the sense triggered the olfactory circuit.

Considering their findings, the scientists suggested that people's inclination to eat more or less food could be directly linked to their sense of smell. This could mean that people with a heightened sense of smell are more prone to become obese, or that individuals with weak olfactory abilities are more likely to develop eating disorders such as anorexia.

Aging and olfaction
According to the National Institutes of Health, many people experience a diminishing sense of smell as they age. This could be due to temporary factors such as an illness that causes nasal congestion, or chronic medical conditions such as allergies that require more consistent attention to manage. Other potential reasons for decreasing olfaction include medications and some treatments for cancer, including radiation and chemotherapy. Additionally, benign growths in the nasal passages known as polyps could limit a person's sense of smell.

In older adults, a limited sense of smell could also be linked to cognitive decline such as Alzheimer's disease or dementia. People who notice their sense of smell decreasing may want to speak with a physician about possible causes of their condition, and pay special attention to maintaining their dietary needs, as a diminished sense of smell can lead to poor appetite. Getting proper nutrition can help contribute to both physical and mental well-being.