Close Your Eyes and Smell the Croissants

Some people vividly imagine the smell of these croissants or other foods more than other people. New research finds that people with obesity report that they more vividly imagine both smells and images of foods than people with lower BMIs. This capacity to imagine food smells and images is linked to food cravings and pleasurable responses to food.

Barkha Patel, who is presenting her findings tomorrow at the annual meeting of the Society for the Study of Ingestive Behavior, says that:

Taken together, these results suggest that imagery ability may play a role in the heightened food cue reactivity observed in people with obesity. Future work should determine if imagery ability precedes or follows weight gain.

Summarizing research on this subject recently in Frontiers in Psychiatry, Benjamin Missbach and colleagues recently commented that:

Research on mental imagery and mindfulness can help us understand eating behavior and to design individual-level interventions. It can also help us understand why some individuals are more successful self-regulators than others

This research brings a whole new meaning to the concept of a healthy imagination. Maybe it’s not just curiosity that killed the cat. It could be that obesity and a vivid imagination for food and aromas plays a role.

Click here to read more from the LA Times, here for more from LiveScience, here to read the study, and here to read Missbach’s review of research on mental imagery and food consumption.

Croissants, photograph © Begemot / flickr

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July 9, 2015