Smell. The most enigmatic of our five senses—the one that reveals our animal nature and the one that scientists understand the least—is also one that’s key to our health.
How does it work? Small molecules called “chemical odorants” waft through your nose, hitting a postage-stamp-sized area at the top of your nasal cavity. There they encounter your 5 million olfactory receptor cells, sending smell information to two parts of your brain: the part that processes feelings and memory and the part where smells are interpreted.
Scientists have made some fascinating discoveries:
—People act more fairly and generously when sniffing scents they perceive to be “clean.”*
—Sprinkling scent-enhancing granules on your meals can make them taste better and satiate you sooner.**
—Dogs have such finely tuned noses that they can smell cancer before medical tests detect it.***
Of all the senses, smell is the one most affected by aging. “The good news is that your smell is a skill you can avoid losing if you use it—and challenge it—regularly,” says behavioral neuroscientist Charles Wysocki, Ph.D. “You can help protect it if you enjoy wine tastings, fine cheese, tending flower gardens, and cooking with aromatic spices.”
Today is the 7th Sunday of Easter. The readings are Acts 1:15-17, 21-26; Psalm 1; 1 John 5:9-13; John 17:6-19. This message was adapted from “Sensation of Smell” written by Molly M. Ginty that first appeared in the November 2010 issue of Lutheran Woman Today (now Gather) magazine.
*Information from a University of Toronto study. **Claim made by the makers of Sensa, a diet product. ***Information from the researchers at the Pine Street Foundation.