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Study Hall: Portion control may start with your nose

woman smelling foodFor Study Hall each week, we sort through the deluge of new medical studies and wordy white papers to bring you one that deserves your attention—in plain, healthy English.

Looking to leave some food on your plate? Spiking your dishes with garlic might do the trick. According to a study published online on March 21 in the peer-reviewed journal Flavour, people may take smaller bites of foods with stronger smells.

The study: Researchers from the Netherlands served ten subjects (four women and six men) vanilla custard and exposed them to varying concentrations of a custard aroma—no aroma, low aroma, and high aroma. (Since when does custard have an aroma?)

They measured the size of the subjects’ bites of custard as the strength of its smell changed.

The results: Bite sizes decreased by five to ten percent when the participants were exposed to the strongest aroma.

What it means: If you’re trying to cut back on calories, the spice rack may be your friend. But don’t spend too much time sniffing around until the study results have been verified with further research. With such a tiny number of participants, the results could still be refuted. —Allison Becker