Why is smell important?

19 March, 2012

Why is smell important?

Understanding the sense of smell
Understanding how the sense of smell works has been heavily studied in recent years. Smell is an important sense as it can alert us to danger like gas leak, fire or rotten food but also is closely linked to parts of the brain that process emotion and memory. Unpleasant and bad smells actually send pain signals to the brain to warn us of possible danger.

Smell is vital for survival of most humans and animals as it enables them to track food and water, find a mate and even communicate. Although our sense of smell is not as acute as other animals we know that humans are able to detect up to 10,000 different odor molecules.

Can smell affect taste buds?

Smell is also important as it can affect our sense of taste. Researchers say 80 percent of the flavors we taste come from what we smell, which is why foods can become flavorless when you have a blocked nose. Taste buds on our tongues can only identify four qualities being sweet, sour, bitter and salt and the remaining ‘tastes’ are actually distinguished by smell.

Effects from loss of smell?

As smell is so closely connected to taste when smell is impaired it can cause people to actually change what they eat. Without smell food becomes tasteless and this results in people adding salt to improve the flavour. Adding salt can in itself be an issue for those with conditions such as blood pressure, kidney disease, diabetes or heart conditions.

In extreme cases smell deprivation has been seen to lead to depression. Problems with our sense of smell has also been linked to early warning signs for more serious health problems such as Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, or multiple sclerosis.

Importance of smell today

We often take our sense of smell in our day-to-day lives for granted, and think we really rely on our eyes and ears. Smell has been an integral part of evolution and survival of the fittest for our species in the past. Although humans rely less now on smell for survival a huge importance is still placed on smell today for taste enjoyment and attracting a partner through use of perfumes.

Perfume houses around the world market their products as the latest and greatest new smell, which you can use to attract a mate. Entire industries exist as the humans have placed such a huge importance on smell. The fragrance industry is now bigger than ever and doesn’t just include retail sales of fragrances like perfumes.

Fragrances are added to many products as it makes us feel good. Smell is the only sense that affects the memory and emotion part of the brain. If we feel good when we buy a product then we are likely to continue buying it. This is why many companies add fragrance to their products such as soap, cigarettes, washing powder. Even those in the food industry use fragrance chemicals known as flavors or aroma chemicals to their products. Smell has become increasing important to us and as a result the industry has responded to these demands.