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EXPLAINED: Can Dessert-Scented Lotion Make You Hungry?

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LOTION FRAGRANCE APPETITE
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By Angelica Catalano for YouBeauty.com

Consider this is you've ever used a dessert-scented body lotion that smelled good enough to eat:

While the marketing message may be that sweet beauty products let us guiltlessly indulge, research suggests they may actually encourage our sweet tooth for real food.

In a 2011 study published in Food Quality and Preference, 58 college students evaluated a chocolate-praline scented lotion or an unscented lotion, and researchers tracked how many chocolate chip cookies the students ate after. At first glance, the subjects exposed to chocolate lotion didn't eat more chocolate chip cookies than those who received unscented lotion. But here's the catch: when the chocolate lotion was clearly labeled on the bottle, the subjects did in fact eat more. In other words, the scent of chocolate alone wasn't powerful enough to prompt subjects to eat more chocolate chip cookies -- recognizing the scent made the difference.

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In general, the results support the concept that food-related cues do increase food intake. The conscious exposure to the verbal cue "chocolate," together with the chocolate scent, played a role in increasing the chocolate cravings. But why is the label so necessary for the subjects to have that chocolate craving?

"Senses are malleable and depend on the context. So labeling may have helped them recognize the smell that they might not have otherwise been able to identify," says Jonah Berger, Ph.D., assistant professor at the Wharton School of Business.

Along this line of thinking, is it possible that rubbing on some fruity-scented lotion could make us more apt to boost our fruit consumption?

"Certainly. Smells can trigger all sorts of related behavior, including consumption," Dr. Berger says. Now there's a surprising diet trick: Swap out your vanilla frosting lotion for one that smells like citrus.

However, the study's lead author, Jennifer Coelho, Ph.D., isn't so sure that would work. Based on her recent studies, she says, "I would speculate that perhaps it is the high-caloric 'forbidden food'-cue exposures that have the most influence on stimulating intake."

So back to the unhealthy stuff. With Halloween candy still hanging around the house, we wonder if what we're pampering ourselves with will cause us to overindulge in those mini Snickers.

If you can't stop thinking about candy corn, you might want to steer clear of the I love candy corn shampoo.

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