Gene May Make Sweat Smell Sweet

Gene Variation May Explain Why People Like or Detest the Smell of Men's Sweat

Medically Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD on September 17, 2007

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

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

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

The study shows that some people like the smell of the male sweat chemicalsandrostenone and androstadienone, while other people detest the smell of thosechemicals.

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

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

The Nose Knows

Matsunami's team asked nearly 400 people to smell androstenone andandrostadienone 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 likethe smell of androstenone and androstadienone, which are related totestosterone.

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

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

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

Show Sources

SOURCES: Keller, A. Nature, Sept. 16, 2007; advance online edition. News release, Duke University.

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