The story of a young woman born without a sense of smell and saying “I don’t know the taste of food”



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We all have a scent we prefer. One scent is likely associated with a particular memory or person, or allows the possibility of knowing that good food is about to be served.

Gabriela Sanders, 22, could not use her sense of smell at all, the effect of which exceeded the boundaries of the nose.

“I don’t know the taste of food,” the girl says on BBC Radio 1’s News. “I can’t taste hot drinks or anything sweet or spicy.”

It is something that not many talk about, as about 5 percent of the population suffers from an olfactory disorder.

However, the lack of a sense of smell may have different effects on a person’s life, practical and emotional, according to a new study by the University of East Anglia. Examples include childhood and critical adolescence concerns, to a feeling of failure when you are unable to tell when your child’s diaper needs to be changed.

“I couldn’t smell anything at all,” she says. “It is strange because no one else in my family’s history was suffering from it, only my sister and I, so it must be a genetic condition.”

How do you know that you are unable to smell?

Gabriella remembers her “actual feeling of not participating” while working at school when she was young.

“It was about the senses,” she says. “Everyone was talking about the smell of things.”

“It happened when I realized that I couldn’t smell, everyone was giving examples, and I had no idea what was going on.”

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Gabriella says her favorite food is fruit, except for strawberries

It caused some problems during childhood, which Gabriella may not have encountered before.

She said she was very afraid of the fire.

“I was very worried when I couldn’t wake up when a fire broke out at home, because I couldn’t smell the fire,” she added.

“Of course the accident affected me when I was younger, but I grew up,” she says.

Practical problems

Carl Phillipot, a member of the research team involved in the study of the University of East Anglia, says that the fear of Gabriella is due to good reason. Not being able to smell gas or smoke smells “a really big problem”.

“I remember one time when I was cooking at home, my mother came back and said that the house was completely smelled of (gas leakage). It was really worrying,” Gabriella says.

“Things like this made me bigger and I’m scared, but I’m more careful now and take precautions,” she says.

The study concluded that external smells are not alone beneficial, as personal hygiene is “a great cause for concern and embarrassment,” because the people who were included in the study could not smell themselves.

Gabriella was able to reach a solution when she was a teenager.

And she says, “I invented words with my parents that only the meaning of us could know.”

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Gabriella devised a method with her parents that included coded words related to hygiene

“If I went home with a friend and my parents smelled bad, they would tell me so I could fix it quickly,” she says.

Gabriella works as a dancer, and it turns out she has an active lifestyle.

“Concerning perfumes and things like that, I never owned any of them, I never cared about beautiful flowers or even toiletries,” she says.

“But I use deodorant because I dance every day, even though I don’t care about these things.”


It may be embarrassing when we talk about it, but Gabriella says that being unable to smell is not one of the things to be ashamed of.

“I think being open with friends and the people around you is important, so they can tell you without embarrassment if they smell bad for you,” she says.

“I have always made sure that the people around me know I cannot smell, so I tell them (please catch my attention and I will not feel offended),” she says.

“I prefer to know rather than annoy someone,” she says.

Would she wish Gabriela had smelled things?

She says: “This is something I don’t need because I haven’t tried it at all, because I don’t know what I’m missing.”

“But how much I would like to try it, and have a feeling of tasting things.”


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