Certain aromas improved drivers' temperaments and sharpened concentration

There used to be a large Wonder Bread bakery in South Miami, and although their product was the blandest food known to man, the aroma in that neighborhood always had the sweet pungency that apparently turns automobile drivers into crazy people.

I’m not sure what the rate of accidents was in South Miami during the 60s and 70s, but it may have been much higher than the rest of the city. According to research from the RAC Foundation for Motoring (a UK advocacy group for safe driving), the aroma of freshly baked bread can prompt a driver to turn surly and drive at higher speeds. The aroma of fast food has the same effect.

So when you see cars pulling out of MacDonald’s or Burger King drive-thrus, it might be wise to give them a wide berth.

The results of this study brought to mind the e-Alert “Every Size Fits All” (6/22/05) in which I told you about the campaign known as HAES, or “health at every size.” The HAES program encourages plus-sized folks to accept and respect their body type while shifting their dietary focus from weight loss to pursuing good health. But to do that, you have to recognize the triggers that can set off eating binges.

Conrad King, a psychologist and one of the authors of the RAC study, told Food Navigator-USA that the sense of smell “circumnavigates the logical part of the brain” and plays directly on emotions. So put a cardboard container of French fries in the car, and your reaction might turn emotional, bypassing good dietary logic. Against your better judgment you might hear yourself say, “Pass the fries, please. NOW!”

Or you could have a mint instead of fries. The RAC study also found that certain aromas – such as peppermint, coffee, lemon and cinnamon – improved drivers’ temperaments and sharpened concentration. Maybe those aromas could also help us avoid losing our heads and impulsively chowing down when we know we really shouldn’t.

“Smell of Fresh Bread and Fast Food Influences Behaviour” Lindsey Partos, Food Navigator-USA, 6/10/05, foodnavigator-usa.com