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Saturday, September 23, 2023

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Research Horizons: The Science of Smell

Nutrition professor Surabhi Bhutani is on a quest to improve health by better understanding our sense of smell.
By Kellie Woodhouse with video by Scott Hargrove

SDSU's Research Horizons series highlights early career faculty and their burgeoning research projects.

How is our sense of smell linked to our health? 

San Diego State University nutrition professor Surabhi Bhutani examines how certain smells are associated with memories and feelings, and how our smells can trigger chemical responses that influence our emotions, well-being and eating habits.

The same chemical responses that make food enjoyable cause people to overeat, leading to health issues like obesity, heart disease and diabetes. Bhutani’s research aims to understand the biological link between smell and hunger.

“When we smell food, it triggers a cascade of hormonal and brain chemical interactions that make us want to eat. We need similar interactions to tell us when we are full,” Bhutani explained. “But when these communication systems are broken, we make unhealthy food choices and eat too much….The better we can understand how smell and hunger are related, the better we can help people improve their health.”

Bhutani came to SDSU in 2018 from Northwestern University, where she was a postdoctoral fellow. She received her Ph.D. in nutrition from the University of Illinois.