Researchers using models of a human throat, mouth and nasal cavities have analyzed how air flows through your mouth when you are eating. In a recent study, they explain how food particles called “volatiles” make their way from the back of your mouth into your nose where you smell them–which then allows you taste the food. Called retronasal smell, it can only happen if you are breathing slowly and inhaling deeply. It’s actually when you exhale that the volatiles are swept up with the force of your breath into the nasal cavity, providing the necessary fodder for your mouth and brain to taste all the goodness. As Dr. Rui Ni, assistant  professor at Penn State University and lead author of the study, stated, “food smells and tastes better if you take your time.

If you are wolfing down your food or, in the case of Thanksgiving, gobbling it down–the speed of your eating prompts you to breathe only from your mouth, forcing the volatiles into your lungs and not your nose where you need them. It’s widely known that when you have a cold you can’t taste your food, and that’s because if your nose is stuffed up you only breathe through your mouth.

This holiday, be grateful for the gift of breathing, including the breath that makes your food more delicious.

Read more about the importance of slow breathing for better eating in the study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.


Photo attribution: BMRR at English Wikipedia [CC BY 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons