Did you know your body odor speaks volumes about you? What does your BO say about you?
Sniff. Sniff. What is that we smell when we enter a crowded compartment or a closed room, filled with people? Yes, whether you like it or not, you cannot escape body odor. It may be mild or it may be hideously strong, you can often catch a whiff of a person, before you see them. Body weapons can be pleasant or unpleasant but they cannot be avoided.
Our dear weapons of odor detection, that olfactory organ, the nose, is able to identify and distinguish between different kinds of smells and not only that, memorize them! So one asks, what is the function of body odor? What use does its serve, aside from putting us off, when we reek of sweat and foulness?
If I say, we are led by noses, I won’t be far wrong. Body odor has a very important purpose, far more important than you could imagine. Body odor, also known by the fanciful title of bromhidrosis, refers to the unpleasant, maybe strong smell produced by our bodies, in its natural state (i.e. when not covered up by using perfumes and deodorants).
Even though many associate body odor with sweat, the fact is that sweat is odorless. The body odor is actually a result of digestion. Sweat production by our body is carried out by two type of glands: eccrine and apocrine. Eccrine glands are present on the surface of the body and secrete the sweat during sweating under the hot sun and consist of salts and water. Apocrine glands are those which are found in the hidden parts of the body such as the genital areas, the groin, underarms etc and the sweat produced by these glands are of a thicker and stickier consistency which is due to the high concentration of proteins and fatty acids. They may be pale or whitish in colour. The secretions from the apocrine glands are what stains clothes yellow and smell.
The sweat from apocrine glands is produced only under specific conditions unlike the eccrine glands sweat secretion which may occur throughout the day as it is necessary for maintaining the body temperature by cooling. Stress, heat, anxiety and any kind of disturbance from the normal may cause the secretion of this sweat.
The Body Odor Culprits
Now, what is very funny is that the sweat produced by the apocrine does NOT smell until it comes out on the skin. And the locations of the apocrine glands are stinking rich with bacterial populations who just love to cosy down in dark areas. And for these bacteria, these sweat secretions are heaven sent as they are the source of nutrients. When bacteria on the skin comes in contact with the proteins in these sweat secretions they break them down as part of their digestion and the end products are the fatty acids which are the factors responsible for the smell of the sweat. These molecules include E 3 methyl 2 hexenoic acid. Some of these bacteria belong to the coccus or spherical bacteria family. The odor produced by the bacterial action of the sweat is worse when you cover up the areas in thick clothing or accessories which do not allow for ventilation.
Now, the kind of body odor produced by different ages and sexes would differ. Babies and young children may smell sweeter or even be odourless as compared to teenagers as their apocrines have just started working overtime following puberty. And as we age, the difference in the body odor would be there. There are thus age, gender and race specific differences in body odor depending upon our genetics and the kinds of microbial population residing in our nooks and corners.
This smell is produced during a chemical action by bacteria on the sweat of the skin, which leads to production of acids such as propionic acids (which may have a vinegarish smell) and hence often excessive sweating may be accompanied by body odor.
Production of body odor is associated with the onset of puberty. Body odor is usually produced by the parts of the body, exposed to sun and where tendency of sweating is high for instance, hairy regions of the armpit and the pubic region, nape of the neck, groin, between the hips and so on and most of us have unique body odor as our composition of fluid and sweat would be different.
Body Odor Helps You Choose Your Partner!
And yet, body odor is believed to serve a more important function than simply putting us off by the strength of its smell. It contains pheromones which are believed to be vital for human sexuality i.e. the presence of these pheromones serves to increase the attractiveness of a male for a woman and vice versa.
Research has shown that our sexual interest in a member of the opposite sex is not just dependent on how attractive the features of the person are but also depends a great deal on the kind of odor. The pheromones in the body odor secretions from the apocrine glands directly trigger responses in the brain.
There is sex related differences between the odor produced by the males and the females and in fact females are considered to have very high olfactory ability, which purely on the basis of the kind of odor, helps them to nose out suitable males. Presence of a chemical androstadienone in the odor has been found to be responsible for the increased attractiveness of certain men to women. What is more fascinating is that we find those smells more attractive, which arise from people who are less related to us. Even more interesting is the fact that these smells can provide unconscious evidence to a man about a female’s receptivity viz. whether she is in a fertile state or not.
Body odor is also very important for infants to identify and recognize their mothers following birth and it is a method for babies to bond with their mothers. It seems that body occurs between individuals are so unique that they can be considered as fingerprints. Besides this, body odor is also important for predicting the chances of disorders like diabetes.
So, if you thought that body odor tells you nothing, Think Again. It can tell you how attractive you are, how approachable you are, how fertile you are and what are the chances that you are leading an unhealthy life. Ain’t that a lot?
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