"Thus, for a few years, we have followed the idea that odor and taste-active food components might have secondary functions in the human body," he added.
Schieberle and his colleagues focused their investigation on biogenic amines, which are potent and often stinky chemical messengers found in many foods and drinks, such as chocolate and hot cocoa, meats (including deli meats), milk and cheese. Both fresh and processed foods can have them.
The researchers isolated primary blood cells from human blood samples to see how they would react, by themselves, to the various pungent food and drink chemicals. Remarkably, like a nose following the scent of a freshly baked cinnamon bun, the blood cells would move toward "attractant" odorant compounds from comfort foods, such as chocolate.
Schieberle clarified that "blood cells -- not only cells in the nose -- have odorant receptors."
What's more, the scientists found that the heart, lungs and other parts of the body have them too.
"But does this mean that, for instance, the heart 'smells' the steak you just ate? We don't know the answer to that question," he shared.