Posted by Claire

It seems like in every glossy there's a profile on the celebrity weight-loss system du jour. From detox diets to the macrobiotic, who can keep track?

One, however, caught my eye: Sensa's Weight-Loss System ($145 for 3-Month Starter Kit) from Dr. Alan Hirsch, Neurological Director of the Smell & Taste Treatment and Research Foundation in Chicago.

I first came across his research when preparing for my posts on Ageless Fantasy, upon which his studies help build its case, i.e. certain scents increase penile blood flow and inspire confidence in women.

Another important find for product development marketers everywhere was his discovery of a critical link between olfactory senses and weight loss -- observing that many of his patients experienced significant weight loss after losing their sense of smell. What he realized from this was that the urge to eat is not governed by the stomach per se, but by the satiety center of the brain.

From this he theorized that weight loss could be achieved through sense of smell, which could be manipulated by sprinkling scented, flavorless crystals on food. These tastants, as they are called in the Sensa system, come in two different kinds -- for both salty and sweet foods -- and contain no stimulants, sodium, calories, sugar, msg, or gluten.

They work by speeding up the satiety process, which tells your body it's time to stop eating. Here's how it goes, according to Dr. Hirsch:

1. Scents from foods cause nerve receptors in the nose to send signals to the olfactory bulb.
2. When the olfactory bulb is stimulated, it triggers the satiety center in the hypothalmus.
3. This triggers the release of hormones that suppress hunger and appetite.

Although there is anecdotal evidence to support this (consider the case of the guinea pig: when the saiety part of his brain is destroyed, he will eat and eat and eat until he dies), the only direct clinical evaluation comes from a study conducted by the Doctor's very own Smell & Taste Treatment and Research Foundation. Hardly independent, you've gotta take it with a grain of salt. Still, the results sound promising:

Clinical Study: Researchers weighed participants at the beginning of the study, then again at the end of the study. The 1,436 people in the treatment group who completed the program lost an average of 30.5 pounds — nearly 15% of their total body weight. Participants achieved these results without having to follow any special exercise regime or diet.

As such, I've been taking Sensa on a test run for the past few weeks and will continue to do so for the next five months, reporting back on my progress. So far, I haven't noticed anything yet -- but it hasn't been that long, and those at Sensa say that it usually takes about a month to see results.

What's more, I've had difficulty remembering to sprinkle on the flakes every time I eat (a common problem for most people). Nevertheless, I'm persevering -- making sure to carry the product with me everywhere, and leaving reminder notes in my kitchen.

Here's what I can tell you about my experience thus far. The flakes are a lot smaller than I was expecting, with the look and texture of (eek!) dandruff. Not the most pleasant of images, but really it's not that bad --  unnoticeable once applied. And even though they're supposed to be scented, I can't smell anything, which is nice since I don't want my sweet potato fries smelling anything other than sweet potato fries.

I've found it to be a bit tricky applying the tastants to some of my favorite foods (like grapes, raspberries, or carrots), but Sensa has a trick for such difficult-to-sprinkle foods: just spritz a bit of water to help the tastants stay.

And then I was a bit confused as to whether apply the sweet or salty tastants on borderline foods, such as oatmeal. The Sensa awnswer? You can choose either.

So far the skeptic in me thinks that maybe by forcing me to be more aware of what I eat, I will invariably consume less. Either way, the sprinkling is doing me good. Anyway, I'll keep you posted.

In the meantime, anyone else out there trying Sensa?


Maltodextrin (Derived from Corn from the USA), Tricalcium Phosphate, Silica, Natural and Artificial Flavors, FD&C Yellow 5, and Carmine.

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