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Brain & Nervous System Health Center

Do We Smell Our Age?

Study: Older People Have Special Scent, but It's Not as Unpleasant as Stereotype Implies
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Sniffing Out Age: Results

''The majority could categorize old body odor as old," Lundstrom tells WebMD. They were not as good at picking out the odor of younger people, he says.

"There is something with the body odor that is helping to associate age," he says.

Experts know that body odor changes with age.

However, the evaluators did not rate the old people's odor as unpleasant.

They did find the odor of middle-aged men particularly unpleasant. "The worst-smellers are middle-aged men," Lundstrom says. "The ones who smelled the most beautiful are middle-aged women."

From best to worst-smelling, here is how the people stacked up:

  • Middle-aged women
  • Old men
  • Young women
  • Old women
  • Young men
  • Middle-aged men -- who lagged way behind other categories, Lundstrom says.

'Old Person's Smell': Perspective

The study confirms there is an ''old person's smell," says Jane Mohler, PhD, MPH, associate director of the Arizona Center on Aging, University of Arizona. She reviewed the findings for WebMD.

"But it also says the older person's smell was less intense and less unpleasant [than some other ages]," she says.

The odor associated with some older people, Mohler says, could have more to do with hygiene or diet habits or illness than physiology.

"We all know how sweet babies smell when they are clean," she says. And, she adds, we know how badly they can smell before a bath or a diaper change.

"Body odor changes [with age]," she says. "But body odor does not have to be bad as we age."

How to Age Fragrantly

For people getting older and fearing ''old person's smell," Lundstrom says don't worry.

"As long as one showers when one should shower and you air out your abode [where body odors can accumulate], you are good to go," he says.

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