Food aromas are cherished memories. You probably still fondly remember the amazing smell of apple pie or steak from the backyard barbeques of your childhood. While we enjoy smells we like, we also rely on our olfactory prowess to save us from eating spoiled food. In fact, for many the sense of smell is our first line of defense against eating bad food. But how much can we rely on our sense of smell?
Smell is perhaps the least appreciated of all our senses but the sense varies greatly between people. One large study showed that almost 1 out of every five people has a significant problem detecting smells. Women generally have a better sense of smell than men. Other factors like poor self-perception, head trauma, and pregnancy can also affect our ability to smell. Everyone’s sense of smell deteriorates with age. I was horrified when my elderly grandmother happily drank spoiled milk since she was unable to detect the sour smell. Did this put her at risk of getting food poisoning?