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Why People (Read: You) Love Themselves Some Pumpkin Spice

The good, the bad and the ugly things we learned about our bodies today

Ahhh, fall! Can you smell it? Cool, crisp and… pumpkin spice-y. That’s right, the scent everyone loves to hate (and hates to love) is back, in everything from lattes to almonds to lip balm. If you’ve been inside a Starbucks recently, this comes as no surprise.

But what might come as a surprise is just how perfectly formulated pumpkin spice is to make our brains go gaga for it.

CNN reported recently on the pumpkin spice phenomenon, and the lengths food scientists have gone through to make it so desirable. First off, there rarely is any actual pumpkin in pumpkin spice; most mixtures contain some combination of cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and the like — i.e, smells that are hardwired in our brains to evoke pleasant memories of family, delicious food and comfort.

And, as CNN reminds us, 80 percent of flavor is smell:

“When an odor or flavor is combined with sucrose or sugar consumption in a hungry person, the person learns at a subconscious, physiological level to associate that flavor with all the wonderful parts of food digestion. By combining the recognizable pumpkin spice flavor with sugar, you train your brain and body to remember how delicious the combination is — and as soon as you smell or even imagine pumpkin spice, your body will have an anticipatory response and crave it.”

Which is why, as a society of basics, we’re so addicted to the stuff. So the next time you’re picking yourself up some pumpkin spice-flavored protein bars, or, God forbid, Pringles, remember: You’re a slave to your pumpkin spice-loving senses.

A few other things we learned about our bodies today:

Jeff Gross is MEL’s social media editor and loves Fridays. He last wrote about how being fat can mess with your sperm.