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Gene May Make Sweat Smell Sweet

Gene Variation May Explain Why People Like or Detest the Smell of Men's Sweat
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Sept. 17, 2007 -- Ah, the sweet smell of ... men's sweat? Scientists report that to some noses, male sweat chemicals smell pleasant -- and a certain gene may be why.

The sense of smell is highly personal. One person's favorite fragrance may make someone else wrinkle their nose.

A new study, published online in the journal Nature, hints at the genetic roots of those preferences.

The study shows that some people like the smell of the male sweat chemicals androstenone and androstadienone, while other people detest the smell of those chemicals.

Those differing opinions may be due to variations in a certain gene, according to Duke University researcher Hiroaki Matsunami, PhD, and colleagues.

"While many theories of different perceptions of smell focus on culture, experience, or memory, our results show that an important portion of this variability is due to an individual's genes," Matsunami says in a news release.

The Nose Knows

Matsunami's team asked nearly 400 people to smell androstenone and androstadienone in test tubes.

Some people found the smell pleasant and similar to the smell of vanilla. Others strongly disliked the scent and said it smelled like urine.

People with certain variations in the OR7D4 gene were more likely to like the smell of androstenone and androstadienone, which are related to testosterone.

"We found that genetic variations of a specific odor receptor determine, to a significant degree, why the same chemicals smell pleasant or unpleasant to different people," Matsunami says in the release.

The OR7D4 gene probably isn't the only gene that governs whether people enjoy or detest the smell of men's sweat, note Matsunami and colleagues.

(Do you find that some sweaty guys smell sexier to you than others? Share your experiences on WebMD's Sexuality: Friends Talking message board.)

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