Formaldehyde Hunger

According to medical student lore, the smell of formaldehyde while dissecting bodies stimulates the appetite. This phenomenon is known as 'formaldehyde hunger'.

It was mentioned in a 2020 article by Amalia Namath in the Georgetown Medical Review, and that's the earliest reference to it I've been able to find:

A few years had passed since I had last been in the anatomy lab, but the smell immediately brought me back. With the smell came a flood of memories—meeting my 4 lab mates and bonding as we spent hours hunched over our cadaver. Often, we would share our favorite recipes as the lab would wind down, in part because of the aptly named "formaldehyde hunger" and to find common ground.

An article on disputes the reality of the phenomenon, noting, "there is some self-reported evidence of formaldehyde actually having the opposite effect — constricting hunger, rather than inducing it."

My guess is that med students just naturally build up an appetite during the long hours they're dissecting a cadaver. After all, they're presumably not snacking while they're doing this. The formaldehyde has nothing to do with their hunger. But it makes a better story to attribute their food cravings to the formaldehyde.
     Posted By: Alex - Sun Jan 09, 2022
     Category: Food | Science | Fables, Myths, Urban Legends, Rumors, Water-Cooler Lore

Sharing recipes after messing around with human innards?? Sounds like they were training to become ghouls, not doctors.

Put me in the group that believes formaldehyde odor suppresses hunger. Yuk.
Posted by Virtual in Carnate on 01/09/22 at 01:55 PM
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