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Sniff olive oil and lose weight

Robin Wulffson MD's picture
olive oil, extra virgin, weight loss, blood sugar, diabetes, Mediterranean diet

Many are aware that olive oil is a component of a healthy diet; however, new research suggests that merely sniffing the oil can help one lose weight. In addition, it can also improve blood sugar levels. Investigators affiliated with the German Research for Food Chemistry conducted the government-funded, institute-based study. They did not receive any funding from olive oil manufacturers.

Olive oil is an essential component of the popular Mediterranean diet; it contains antioxidants and oleic acid that have cardio-protective qualities. The new research, however, has found that the aroma of olive oil can be beneficial to one’s health. For the maximum benefit, extra virgin olive oil should be selected because, compared to other oils and fats, extra virgin olive oil is more likely to make a person feel full (satiated).

The goal of the study was to determine whether there was a way to reduce the fat content of food without losing its taste or aroma. The researchers began by evaluating four different fats:(lard, butter, olive oil, and canola oil. They looked at how much the oils provided a sensation of satiety (fullness). The study group comprised 120 individuals who were divided into five groups. They were all told to eat 500 grams of yogurt every single day for three months. The yogurt was supplemented with one of the four fats in four groups. The fifth group ate plain yogurt with no fat. None of the study participants were aware of what type of yogurt they were eating; they were only informed that it might be enriched with an animal or plant-based fat. All the subjects had routine blood tests drawn.

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On many days, the olive oil group consumed less calories, so they did not gain weight. The subjects were routinely given blood tests; the group that ate the yogurt with olive oil was found to have increases in serotonin, which is a hormone associated with satiety. The canola and lard groups gained weight during those three months. The researchers noted that those groups did not feel satiated, despite the fact that canola oil has been reported to have similar health benefits as olive oil. Interestingly, the butter group and the plain yogurt group lost weight.

The next phase of the study examined whether there was something else besides the oils’ nutrients that justified the weight differences. The same test subjects were divided into two groups. Each group was given non-fat yogurt; however, the yogurt consumed by one group contained an extract that had the aroma of olive oil. The researchers found that the serotonin levels dropped in the subjects who ate plain yogurt; they also said they felt less satiated after eating it. They ate an average of 176 calories more a day than the group that consumed the yogurt with an olive oil aroma. That group reduced their caloric intake and had better blood glucose levels.

The researchers noted that a limitation of the study was its small sample size. Thus, they could not make any general recommendations. They stressed, however, that consumers should recognize the psychological impacts of the study: your meal is not limited to what you see on your plate.

Reference: German Research for Food Chemistry