Why Single People Smell Different by William Park

Why Single People Smell Different by William Park

About once every ten years, articles like this one come out – I’ve been seeing these kinds of news stories going back to the 1980s or the 1990s.

Sometimes they talk about research showing that women put out different pheromones when they’re having their periods than when they’re not, things like that.

I have no idea why researchers or anyone finds this of any import or news-worthy. Seems kind of weird to me.

(Link): Why Single People Smell Different by William Park


There is a wealth of psychological and biological information stored in our scent, but for some reason we choose to ignore it.

June 21, 2021

…Our body odour can reveal details about our health, like the presence of diseases (cholera smells sweet and acute diabetes like rotten apples). “It can also reveal information about our diet,” says Mehmet Mahmut, an olfaction and odour psychologist at Macquarie University, Australia.

“There are a couple of studies that kind of contradict, but my group found that the more meat you consume the more pleasant your BO smells.”

Men find women’s body odour more pleasant and attractive during the follicular phase of the menstrual cycle, when women are most fertile, and least pleasant and attractive during menstruation.

This might have been useful for our ancient ancestors to detect good candidates for reproduction, suggest the authors of that paper. Men’s testosterone levels might improve their scent, too.

While it can change depending on our diet and health, a lot of what makes our smell unique is determined by our genetics. Our body odour is specific enough, and our sense of smell accurate enough, that people can pair the sweaty T-shirts of identical twins from a group of strangers’ T-shirts. Identical twin body odour is so similar that matchers in this experiment even mistook duplicate T-shirts from the same individual as two twin T-shirts.

…Do humans use genetic information hidden in body odour to choose their partners? It would seem not. In a study of almost 3,700 married couples, the likelihood of people ending up with a HLA-dissimilar partner was no different to chance. We might have a preference for certain smells, and there might be a genetic reason for that, but we don’t act upon smells when choosing who we marry.

“But even though HLA does not influence choices, it influences sexual wellbeing,” says Sorokowska. People with congenital anosmia (the loss of their sense of smell) have poorer relationship outcomes, suggests Mahmut in a study with Ilona Croy at the University of Dresden, Germany.

… The link between BO preference and genes spurred a fashion for T-shirt speed-dating and even “mail odour” services. But the evidence to support the idea we can make good dating decisions based on smell is unclear.

…In a separate study by Mahmut, strangers’ BO also smelled stronger than married men’s BO. He speculates that this might be because “there’s some evidence of a correlation between high testosterone levels and stronger BO. We know there is an association between a reduction in testosterone and getting older, which might be due to the things going on in a married man’s life as he gets over 40 – prioritising children and things like that. Men who are in relationships, and more so those that have had children, have lower testosterone.


(Link): Married Men — Not Women — Are Fatter Than Their Singleton Counterparts

(Link): Why Marriage Is Good for Your Health — Until You Get Sick (copy)

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: