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The Sweet Smell of Diet Success

Can the aroma from special flavor crystals help you eat less and drop weight permanently?

And the Survey Says ...

Findings from a large study of the flavor crystals -- Hirsch is hoping to enroll 9,000 participants -- won't be available for several years, but preliminary findings are somewhat promising. Over six months, crystal users lost an average of about 35 pounds overall, while traditional dieters had an average weight gain of about one pound. The study was small, however, involving only about 110 people.

Still, some experts question whether the crystals can really be effective over time.

"Obesity is now the second leading cause of preventable deaths in the U.S.," says Fred Pescatore, MD, author of The Hamptons Diet. "That's never going to go away if we continue to look for tricks or gimmicks to help people lose weight."

Most people would agree that you need to take a well-rounded approach to weight loss and shouldn't rely on something like flavor crystals alone to reach your goals. "Any tricks that work for people are important, but to predicate an entire dieting program on sprinkling your foods with crystals is difficult to buy into." Instead, he says, exercise and healthy eating are the best ways to lose and maintain weight -- facts most dieters just don't want to hear.

Even if the crystals can decrease appetite, or trick the brain into thinking we're full, there is no guarantee that they will stop people from eating more. In a culture where food is either supersized or measured out into tiny quantities, eating amounts based on how hungry we feel or what our bodies tell us is a foreign idea to most people.

"Appetite probably plays the least role in gaining weight," says Pescatore, who is based in New York City. Most people, he says, eat because of psychological reasons including depression. "Focusing on those reasons is the real key. People need to figure out why they're eating, because then they will be better at controlling it."

One of the reasons people eat excessively, however, may include sensory factors. "There is probably a percentage of the population eating for the sensory tactile things about food, just like how some people eat for comfort," says Susan Mitchell, PhD, RD, a nutritionist in Orlando, Fla. "Someone may have a lot of emotional issues, and their outward way of dealing with that emotion is through food. For others, it might be the taste and smell that drives them, but they don't realize how much they are eating."

Even Hirsch says the crystals might not work for everyone. "This may only work for people eating for the sensory component," he says.

Putting Your Senses to Work

The findings of this study won't be completed or published for several years. In the meantime, experiment at home by better using your sense of smell and taste while eating. "Sniff your food before you eat it," says Hirsch. "Chew slowly, and take your time." Try enjoying more spicy or savory foods -- not a difficult task for most dieters, who often eat the same foods day after day.

But why stop at smell and taste alone? Instead, try using all of your senses and really enjoy foods, which may bring greater satisfaction. Mitchell recommends adding lots of fruits and vegetables to your diet, which in addition to being colorful and flavorful, have lots of natural health benefits. Most of all, eat for the nutrition and the pleasure, says Mitchell. "I think we've gotten away from both." If you take your time and use all of your senses, you just might find that some of your cravings are satisfied before your fork hits the plate.


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