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Open Access Research

Differential effects of exposure to ambient vanilla and citrus aromas on mood, arousal and food choice

René A de Wijk1* and Suzet M Zijlstra2

Author Affiliations

1 WUR Food and Biobased Research, Consumer Science & Intelligent Systems, P.O. Box 17, Wageningen AA 6700, The Netherlands

2 Division of Human Nutrition, Wageningen University, Wageningen, EV, 6700, The Netherlands

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Flavour 2012, 1:24  doi:10.1186/2044-7248-1-24

Published: 1 December 2012

Abstract

Background

Aromas have been associated with physiological, psychological affective and behavioral effects. We tested whether effects of low-level exposure to two ambient food-related aromas (citrus and vanilla) could be measured with small numbers of subjects, low-cost physiological sensors and semi-real life settings. Tests included physiological (heart rate, physical activity and response times), psychological (emotions and mood) and behavioral (food choice) measures in a semi-real life environment for 22 participants.

Results

Exposure to ambient citrus aroma increased physical activity (P <0.05), shortened response times in young participants (P <0.05), decreased negative emotions (P <0.05), and affected food choice (P <0.05). Exposure to ambient vanilla aroma increased projected introvert emotions (P <0.05). All effects were small relative to estimated effect sizes.

Conclusions

The test battery used in this study demonstrated aroma-specific physiological, psychological and behavioral effects of aromas with similar appeal and intensities, and similar food-related origins. These effects could be measured in (semi-) real life environments for freely moving subjects using relatively inexpensive commercially available physiological sensors.

Keywords:
Ambient aroma; Behavior; Citrus; Food choice; Psychology; Olfactory effects; Performance; Physiology; Vanilla