Do aromatherapy weight-loss products work?

Answers from Katherine Zeratsky, R.D., L.D.

These scent-based weight-loss products deliver aromas that are supposed to reduce your appetite.

One of the early scent-based products, the powdered food additive Sensa, was withdrawn from the market after the Federal Trade Commission found that the product made false claims of effectiveness.

A study by Alan Hirsch, M.D., who developed Sensa, is often cited as proof that aromatherapy aids weight loss. That study showed that volunteers who used an aroma inhaler lost an average of 2 percent of their body weight over six months.

However, because the study lasted only six months, it didn't look at whether participants were able to maintain their weight loss over time.

A few studies on the effects of odors on appetite have found that smelling sweet food odors, such as vanilla, banana and chocolate, tend to increase appetite, while neutral or nonfood odors tend to decrease it.

So can scent-based weight-loss products lead to significant, sustainable weight loss? The jury is still out. Even some of the makers of these weight-loss products acknowledge that losing weight comes down to diet and exercise.

It makes more sense, then, to skip the scents and focus on what's proven to work — reducing the calories you eat and increasing the calories you burn through exercise.

March 04, 2017 See more Expert Answers