Heart and Lungs Can Smell Food; Blood Cells Attracted to Pungent Aromas

Apr 08, 2013 02:40 PM EDT | By Jason Pollak

A new research study presented at the National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society in New Orleans has shown some shocking new evidence in regards to the ways we smell foods, according to Discovery News.

Previously, researchers thought humans could only smell food through the nose. However, new research shows that we possess olfactory receptors in other organs throughout our body, such as the heart and lungs.

These receptors help us sense odors further. In the fact, the nose only detects a small fraction of food odors.

"Only a tiny little amount of food odorants and tastants (substances that stimulate taste) are used by our receptors in the nose and on the tongue; the major part of the molecules goes down the way to our stomach and might reach the blood stream and finally, the organs," research leader Peter Schieberle said, according to Discovery News. "Thus, for a few years, we have followed the idea that odor and taste-active food components might have secondary functions in the human body."

The research team made the discovery by using biogenic amines, which are "potent and sticky chemical messengers found in many foods," according to Discovery.

They are found in food and drinks such as chocolate, meats, deli meats, milk and cheese. Fresh foods have them as do processed foods. Using primary blood cells from human blood samples, the researchers observed how they would react to "attractants" from food.

Researchers found that much as a nose follows a scent, the blood cells moved towards the pungent aromas.

"Blood cells -- not only cells in the nose -- have odorant receptors," Schieberle said. "But does this mean that, for instance, the heart 'smells' the steak you just ate? We don't know the answer to that question."

He said it was probably more of an overall body process that begins when we detect foods and beverages.

This is known as studying "sensomic" according to Discovery.

"While we eat," Schieberle said, "all receptor signals together are finally translated by our brain into the overall flavor impression we expect from the respective food."

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