High hunger state increases olfactory sensitivity to neutral but not food odors

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Understanding how hunger state relates to olfactory sensitivity has become more urgent due to their possible role in obesity. In 2 studies (within-subjects: n = 24, between-subjects: n = 40), participants were provided with lunch before (satiated state) or after (nonsatiated state) testing and completed a standardized olfactory threshold test to a neutral odor (Experiments 1 and 2) and discrimination test to a food odor (Experiment 2). Experiment 1 revealed that olfactory sensitivity was greater in the nonsatiated versus satiated state, with additionally increased sensitivity for the low body mass index (BMI) compared with high BMI group. Experiment 2 replicated this effect for neutral odors, but in the case of food odors, those in a satiated state had greater acuity. Additionally, whereas the high BMI group had higher acuity to food odors in the satiated versus nonsatiated state, no such differences were found for the low BMI group. The research here is the first to demonstrate how olfactory acuity changes as a function of hunger state and relatedness of odor to food and that BMI can predict differences in olfactory sensitivity.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)189-198
Number of pages10
JournalChemical Senses
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2011


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