The Surprising Link between Obesity and our Sense of Smell

In 2016, more than 2 billion adults were diagnosed as overweight, including 650 million who were defined as obese. The World Health Organization noted that global obesity has almost tripled since 1975. Indeed, it is now considered a major health epidemic.

The American Medical Association (AMA) designated obesity as a disease in 2013. This designation is an indication that old stereotypes regarding obesity have changed. The current viewpoint, according to both nutritionists and guidelines from the AMA, clearly states that being overweight is not “just” a matter of consuming too many calories or getting too little exercise, but a complex medical issue that is often beyond an individual’s control.

Numerous studies are currently underway to determine the consequences of this disease on our health.

In a recent study published in Obesity Reviews, scientists discovered a new link between body weight and an individual’s sense of smell. Researchers collected information from approximately 1500 participants involved in empirical and clinical body weight studies worldwide.

Dr. Peng, the lead author of this study stated, “After compiling our evidence we found there is, in fact, a strong link between a person’s body weight and their smell ability — the better a person can smell, the more likely the person is to be slim, or vice a versa.”

The researchers added that the sense of smell is fundamental to eating, since it modulates the way we identify and choose the foods we eat. Individuals with a poor sense of smell are more likely to make unhealthful food choices, further increasing their risk of obesity. As Dr. Peng’s says, “For example, they might choose, or become attracted to, saltier and tastier foods such as bacon and maple syrup instead of blander foods, such as low-fat cereal with less sugar.”

Although further research is needed, the current hypothesis is that obesity alters a person’s metabolism, which affects communication between the brain and the gut. In order to test this hypothesis, the researchers analyzed the effects of two surgical treatments for obesity: stomach removal and gastric bypass surgery, a procedure that involves dividing the stomach into two pouches and reconnecting these pouches to the small intestine separately.

The analysis showed conclusively that stomach removal improved an individual’s sense of smell while gastric bypass surgery did not have this effect. Again, quoting Dr. Peng: “Cutting the stomach could change nerves in the stomach that affect the gut-brain pathway, so smell changes could be the key to the difference between the two surgeries — essentially, the smaller size of the stomach might not be the factor that leads to weight loss, it is more likely due to the gut-brain pathway being reset.”

This groundbreaking research will hopefully raise awareness regarding the effect of eating habits on our senses and vice a versa. As we age, our eating habits often become less disciplined. As the current research shows, this affects our cardiovascular health, diabetes risk, and the risk for other serious and disabling health.

At Laurel Bay Health and Rehabilitation Center, in the scenic beach town of Keansburg, NJ, our program includes attention to every aspect of care, including nutrition. Our pledge is to provide superior health care services in the most compassionate way. We put in place individualized care plans, robust post-acute rehabilitation, and recreational activities for every one of our residents, whether they are short-term or long-term.

Our short-term rehabilitation program is designed to get our patients back to their optimal level of functioning and independence as quickly as possible, post hospitalization. We provide a tailored program of physical, occupational and speech therapy, as well as all types of specialized care under one roof.

We include our residents and families in the development and progress of their individualized care plan up until the day of their discharge, when we ensure their smooth transition back into the community.

Our long-term care program offers 24/7 skilled nursing care of the highest caliber for our residents. In addition to a varied selection of stimulating activities and recreational programs, our residents benefit from our specialty health services, exquisite dining and social services.

We offer specialized health services and programs for our residents suffering from Dementia and Alzheimer’s. This includes our sensory programs and activities provided in a secured environment.

Need a break to recharge? No problem. We provide an amazing Respite Care program with 24/7 medical services.

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