To smell or not to smell?


To smell or not to smell?

What’s your favourite scent? Is it the smell of freshly cut grass, the waft of a bacon sandwich or the aroma of the latest Chanel perfume? Would you be willing to give those up in exchange for a longer life?

Scientists from the University of Michigan have found that cutting off a fruit fly’s ability to smell can increase its lifespan by 20 per cent. They reason that when the fly cannot smell carbon dioxide, which indicates the presence of food, its body thinks that food is scarce and goes into survival mode.

Matt Kaeberlein, who studies ageing at the University of Washington, believes the same could be possible in humans. ‘We definitely undergo physiological changes in response to smelling food — I’m getting hungry just thinking about it,’ he says.

So do you choose a longer, smell-free life, or opt for a shorter, full sensory existence? It is well known that scents are linked to emotions — lavender promotes relaxation, vanilla makes us happy — and evolutionary research has found that our nose helps us detect danger. Researchers have even found that sensory experiences can affect a range of health characteristics in humans, from athletic performance to type II diabetes.

Smells also have powerful links to memory. Speaking to The Telegraph, sensory psychologies Dr Pamela Dalton said, ‘The link between scent and memory is very strong, and how we react to different smells is therefore very unique and dependent on who we are as individuals and our past experiences.’ You only have to look at the vast array of perfumes on offer (and hefty price tag of a 30ml bottle) to understand the importance we place on smells.

I’d certainly like to live a longer life, no doubt about it. But a life without the smell of fresh sea air? I think I’ll stick with what I’ve got thanks.