Your Scrumptious-Smelling Lotion is Making You Hungry

Dessert-scented body lotion might not be a “guiltless indulgence” after all.

Scrumptious-Smelling Lotion

If you’ve ever lathered up with a dessert-scented body wash that smelled good enough to eat, consider this:

While the marketing message may be that sweet beauty products let us guiltlessly indulge, research suggests they may actually encourage our sweet tooth for real food.

In a 2011 study published in Food Quality and Preference, 58 college students evaluated a chocolate-praline scented lotion or an unscented lotion, and researchers tracked how many chocolate chip cookies the students ate after. At first glance, the subjects exposed to chocolate lotion didn't eat more chocolate chip cookies than those who received unscented lotion. But here’s the catch: when the chocolate lotion was clearly labeled on the bottle, the subjects did in fact eat more. In other words, the scent of chocolate alone wasn’t powerful enough to prompt subjects to eat more chocolate chip cookies—recognizing the scent made the difference. 

QUIZ: Is Your Eating Easily Influenced?

In general, the results support the concept that food-related cues do increase food intake. The conscious exposure to the verbal cue “chocolate,” together with the chocolate scent, played a role in increasing the chocolate cravings. But why is the label so necessary for the subjects to have that chocolate craving?

“Senses are malleable and depend on the context. So labeling may have helped them recognize the smell that they might not have otherwise been able to identify,’ says Jonah Berger, Ph.D., assistant professor at the Wharton School of Business.

Along this line of thinking, is it possible that rubbing on some fruity-scented lotion could make us more apt to boost our fruit consumption?

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