What your ‘b.o.’ says about you

By Ann Griswold • Published: August 4th, 2009
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

When you find yourself in close quarters with a smelly someone, your first thought probably isn’t about what a good romantic partner they would make. But scientists say that’s exactly the type of message our body odor conveys, whether we realize it or not.

Research has shown that men and women differ in the sweaty messages they send and how they interpret each others’ cues. Men often emit a much stronger body odor than women, and this pungent smell isn’t necessarily the result of poor hygiene. Men unknowingly broadcast important information about their genetic fitness when they forget to don the deodorant.

And although humans’ noses are less sensitive than those of other mammals, women are much better suited than men to extract information from body odor and determine if a particular male would be a good partner for making babies. Females generally prefer men whose smell differs drastically from their own.

One component of male sweat that has a particularly provocative effect on females is a hormone called androstadienone [andro-staa-DIE-eh-known]. When researchers mixed this hormone with olive oil and dabbed it on the faces of female volunteers… without telling them whether they were exposed to the hormone or simply the olive oil… the women were more fascinated than their peers with a set of male volunteers.

So the next time someone’s body odor is strong enough to talk back, take a second to listen. They may be sending you an important message!