12 January - 20 June 2016

Bad diet affects the sense of smell

30 July 14

A new study funded by National Institutes of Health in the US and published in The Journal of Neuroscience provides interesting insight into the effect of bad diet on the sense of smell.

A group of researchers led by Nicolas Thiebaud studied the effect of a high-fat diet on the olfactory system in mice. During a 24-week period they fed male mice either a) high fat diet (60% kcal intake came from fat) b) control diet (13.5 % kcal from fat) or c) moderately high fat diet (31.8% kcal from fat) and investigated the differences in olfaction between the groups.

Another facet of the study was the teaching of the mice to associate a particular odour with a reward. They examined the anatomy and functioning of the olfactory bulb (OB), the activity of olfactory sensory neurons (OSN) and main olfactory epithelium (MOE). Main observations were that the high-fat diet led to loss of OSN, reduced connections from the MOE to the OB, malfunction in olfactory receptors, reduced odor recognition and reduced density of axonal projections from olfactory sensory neurons. Furthermore, mice that ate the high fat diet were slower to learn the association between smell and reward.

The study also demonstrated that the damage to the olfactory system may be irreversible, as the olfactory dysfunctions were retained even after the high fat diet was removed and mice were fed a healthy diet.

Next steps for researchers include studying whether exercise could slow down the negative impact of high-fat diet and if a high-sugar diet could result in a similar effect on sense of smell.

The study suggests that amongst other well-known consequences of a high-fat diet, it could result in long-lasting structural and functional changes in the olfactory system. As smell drives behavioural decision about food choice and consumption, bad olfaction could contribute to poor eating behaviour.[Eurekalert, Independent, Daily Mail]

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