Charlotte, NC

The Science Behind Choosing What to Eat, according to a Neuroscientist from JWU Charlotte

The Hornet's Nest

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CHARLOTTE, NC - A world-renowned neuroscientist, Rachel Herz, Ph.D., reveals smell is the main factor contributing to our choices of food. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the sense of smell will weaken, thus the appetite for food lessens as well.

Herz introduced the coined term of psychological science of smell as the speaker at the Cultural Life Series at Johnson & Wales University. Her presentation titled “Why You Eat What You Eat” explained how sensory and psychological factors affect our choices in life.

She elaborated the four basic tastes - salt, sour, sweet, and bitter. These four basic tastes are made up of the sensation of smell from the nose and taste from the mouth. Although flavor comes from the combination of mouth and nose sensory reception cells, she explained the aroma we smell from the nose made up the most definition of taste that our brain could proceed

Using steak as an example, Herz illustrates that the combination of saltiness and the steak aroma is what gives people the definition of steak flavor. She emphasized that without the aroma, the only thing we taste while eating the steak is the taste of salt.

Savoring foods in the COVID-19 pandemic could become a problem, as the virus weakens the ability to smell or making sense of a smell. The loss of sense of smell affects greatly the patients’ appetite.

“If people say they’ve lost their sense of taste it is more likely they’ve lost their sense of smell and the food does not have the normal taste qualities they’re expecting,” explains Herz.

To savor the flavor as normal, Herz advised the COVID patients to do “smell training” to exercise the nose. Patients could prepare four distinct smells such as strong spices or perfume to be sniffed actively for 10 seconds, four times a day. With this training, patients are expected to regain their normal sense of smell and be able to differentiate flavor from food.

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