Cant smell the roses? Maybe youre depressed.
Smell too much like a rose yourself? Maybe youve
got the same problem. Scientists from Tel Aviv University
recently linked depression to a biological mechanism that
affects the olfactory glands. It might explain why some
women, without realizing it, wear too much perfume.
Scientific research that supports this theory was published
this year in the journal Arthritis and Rheumatism. Our
scientific findings suggest that women who are depressed
are also losing their sense of smell, and may overcompensate
by using more perfume, explains researcher Prof.
Yehuda Shoenfeld, a member of the Sackler Faculty of Medicine
at Tel Aviv University. We also believe that depression
has biological roots and may be an immune system response
to certain physiological cues.
Women who are depressed are also more likely to lose
weight. With a reduced sense of smell, they are less likely
to have a healthy appetite, he says.
Prof. Shoenfeld draws his conclusions from lifetime research
on autoimmune diseases, focusing on conditions such as
lupus, arthritis and rheumatism.
More Than a Feeling
Affecting about 1.5 million Americans, depression accompanying
lupus, Prof. Shoenfeld has found, is much more than an
emotional reaction to being ill. It appears to have a
In lupus patients and those with other autoimmune diseases,
a particle known as an autoantibody attacks
the persons own immune system, appearing in the
human body as an aberrant reaction to autoimmune diseases.
This particle is a real novelty, says Prof.
Shoenfeld. We have found that, when generated, it
weakens a persons sense of smell and can induce
the feeling of depression.
Scientists today widely accept the fact that people with
Alzheimers disease lose their sense of smell. Prof.
Shoenfelds research is the first that links depression
to smell in lupus patients, however.
The implications are wide and can be applied to the general
population, says Prof. Shoenfeld. People who are
depressed seem to respond well to aromatherapy. Certain
smells seem to help them overcome the effects of the biological
factors, suggesting that depression may have a biological
This research also raises questions about the cause of
psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia. There
may be an organic cause to these disorders, and if this
is the case, clinicians might have to change their attitude
about current therapies they use, Prof. Shoenfeld
says. I think that science is able to show that
aromatherapy might not be just for quacks. After all,
some of these remedies have been used since the time of
the Egyptians to treat organic diseases.
Prof. Shoenfeld also suggests that a standardized smell
test could be used by doctors to help diagnose depression
as well as autoimmune diseases.
Retail Therapy and Aromatherapy
He adds that the association between ones sense
of smell and depression has interesting implications for
smell marketing, used by retailers to encourage
shoppers to buy, especially around holiday time. These
tactics are already being used by retailers and banks
all over the world, says Prof. Shoenfeld.
The retail industry has learned that if it splashes
good smells around, it can convince clients to buy more
and invest more money. It certainly has an effect on ones