Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Senseless Fat
08 November 2014

Senseless Fat

Who would have thought that obesity could blunt your sense of smell? Yet that’s exactly what researchers studying laboratory mice have found, though they’re unsure if this also applies to humans. Surprisingly, the loss of olfaction in a group of mice reared on diets high in fats – stored in cells (shown in red) networked with blood vessels (green) – was irreversible. This was because the fat mice suffered more frequently from inflammations of the membrane lining their olfactory cavities, which destroyed their smell neurons [sensory nerve cells]. In healthy people, fat helps to trap vitamins and to shield tissues and organs from knocks and cold. But these benefits are outweighed in overweight or obese individuals (67% of men and 57% of women in the UK). The health impact of fat is not yet fully understood as researchers continue uncovering hitherto unsuspected links to conditions such as learning problems but also some cancers.

Written by Tristan Farrow

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