Do you know that some aromas can help in the fight against obesity? This is the case of patchouli that, if inhaled, contributes, in case of overweight and obesity, to reduce hunger and body weight, as emerges from a recent scientific research that appeared in the Nutrients magazine thanks to the work of a Korean team in collaboration with American scientists (Hong et al, Nutrients, 2020).
Obesity and complications
Obesity is an increasing condition. The problem is that obesity brings with it complications, such as an increased risk of developing cardiovascular disease, diabetes and hypertension. Obesity, in most cases, is caused by an excessive introduction of calories and / or insufficient calorie expenditure, for example in the case of a sedentary lifestyle.
Odors, nervous system and metabolism
But how can odors fight obesity? Everything is explained by considering that the recognition of odors is a complex and fascinating process that involves the nervous system. In fact, volatile aromatic compounds, odors, bind to the receptors of our olfactory neurons. From here, through the nerves, the olfactory stimulus reaches the brain with a possible influence on the central nervous system and its ability to regulate the sense of hunger, metabolism and lipolysis, which is the process of breaking down stored lipids.
Osmanthus and anti-obesity patchouli
Previous studies had shown that inhaling the aroma of Osmanthus fragrans is able to reduce continuous nervous hunger and the consequent weight gain. Patchouli essential oil is considered anti-inflammatory, antiviral, antioxidant but, above all, capable of counteracting the accumulation of fats. Its aroma also works to reduce hunger and weight gain. However, to date, studies had not investigated this action and its effect on indicators of a possible metabolic syndrome such as body weight, cholesterol and blood pressure.
How patchouli counteracts obesity
To fill this gap, the researchers developed a study, performed on animals, in which patchouli essential oil was inhaled in conditions of obesity. After three weeks, it emerged that those who inhaled the essential oil of patchouli had a reduction in appetite and body weight compared to the group who had not smelled the aroma. In fact, blood tests showed that leptin levels were higher in the group undergoing aromatherapy with patchouli. Leptin is a hormone that provides the body with information on the state of energy reserves and has the function of regulating the accumulation of fat in the body. High levels of leptin communicate that fat reserves are increasing, therefore it is necessary to increase the body's metabolism, reduce the introduction of new fat through food and instead increase energy expenditure, thus promoting weight loss. Not only that, HDL cholesterol, or good cholesterol, was observed in significantly higher quantities in the group that had inhaled patchouli oil, while bad or LDL cholesterol was in smaller quantities than in the group that had not smelled patchouli. Finally, blood pressure was also lower in the group that had inhaled the essential oil. Therefore, patchouli helped to counteract weight gain and improved the parameters that indicate the presence of the metabolic syndrome, with benefits for heart health.
Certainly an essential oil alone cannot counteract conditions such as overweight and obesity. However, aromatherapy can help, if combined with a healthy and balanced diet and moderate physical activity, to prevent and combat overweight, obesity and metabolic syndrome.