Human pheromones: Welcome to the party
Some questions to ponderDoes anything in your experience cause you to believe that humans might have pheromones? Do you think that pheromone parties are truly able to help someone find an appropriate mate, just like pheromones in animals?
Armpit chemistryResearchers at York and Unilever have pinpointed the bacteria that is the main offender in making armpits pungent – the culprit, Staphylococcus hominis, acts by breaking down naturally secreted sweat compounds into smelly compounds including thioalcohols (e.g. CH3CH2CH2C(SH)(CH3)CH2CH2OH). Going forward, the team envisage a deodorant that would prevent armpit bacteria from producing thioalcohols rather than simply killing them off, as typical deodorants do.
Related to this, has anyone tried using a probiotic deodorant? These recently introduced underarm salves claim to use a healthy mix of bacteria to combat body odour – bacteria from non-smelly armpits are used to eradicate ‘bad’ bacteria in stinky armpits.
Can we smell fear?We have seen that guard bees release alarm pheromones to alert others to a threat, so what about humans? As yet, no one has identified a compound in human sweat that corresponds to our level of anxiety. However, a number of experiments indicate that sweat born from emotion (e.g. on watching a scary film) has a different smell to sweat from exercise. For example, in 2002, a study of 60 women rated sweat from women who had watched a scary movie as stronger, less pleasant and smelling more “like aggression” than sweat from women who had watched a neutral movie. For such studies, it can be difficult to find volunteers willing to forego deodorants for several days and it bodes the question, bearing in mind the fragrances we daily dab onto our bodies, would any signals that sweat might contain be detectable?
Exploring Everyday Chemistry
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