Have you ever sat down with a group of friends and kicked back a few glasses – let’s be honest, a whole bottle – of vino, then found yourself thinking the olives and crackers you laid out taste super delicious? Maybe you find yourself thinking that the chocolate bar you saved from earlier today is now tasting more like a rich ganache cake? Those french fries suddenly taste more like fancy frites? That’s because science has confirmed that alcohol makes food smell and taste oh-so-much-better.
A study at Indiana University School of Medicine took thirty-five non-vegetarian, non-smoking fit women and observed them twice. The first time, they were injected with alcohol before eating. The second time, they were injected with a placebo solution (saline). The women were then studied, with the researchers taking note of their brain’s response to food and non-food smells measured through fMRI scans. After the participants had their scans, they were offered lunch.
When the women were injected with alcohol, they ate more than when they had been given the placebo. Moreover, according to their fMRI’s, when they were injected with alcohol, their brains were particularly responsive in the hypothalamus region (the area of the brain in charge of metabolic processes). Alcohol made the hypothalamus more responsive to the smell of food versus the smell of anything else. The conclusion? That the hypothalamus might have to do with how alcohol makes a person sensitive to food smells and tastes. This is called the “aperitif phenomenon.” As in having a little “aperitif” (starter drink) whets your palate.
So, the next time you’re about to enjoy a delicious meal, drink wine! It will enhance the flavors and aromas of what’s sitting in front of you. In fact, drink wine before eating fast food – you might feel like you’re dining on gourmet.