Sniff out truth behind body odor


By Sara Seibel 

Photo edit by Faith Evans
Photo edit by Faith Evans

It may seem like an uncomfortable topic, but body odors can tell a lot about a person. They help determine compatibility and illnesses, and can also draw people together or do the exact opposite.

“Everyone has their own unique scent, just like everyone has their own unique fingerprints,” Sydney Edwards, sophomore, said.

Mats Olsson, a researcher from Karolinska Institute in Sweden, proved that people can predict if someone is sick or not just by their body odor. Olsson and his team gathered evidence that suggests diseases have particular smells, and that other people are able to smell if someone is fighting off an infection based on the scent their sweat gives off.

The experiment consisted of a total of 48 participants. Eight volunteers were injected with lipopolysaccharide (LPS), a compound that elicits strong immune responses in humans as if they were fighting off bacteria.

The placebo group and the ones injected with the compound wore tight t-shirts for four hours to absorb the sweat. The 40 other participants were gathered to smell the t-shirt sweat samples, and found that the LPS-injected patients projected a more aversive, unpleasant, and unhealthier scent, proving infections smell.

“Whenever I get the flu I always notice my scent changing, so now I know that that means something,” Cristal Rodriguez, junior, said.

Certain diseases are associated with specific smells. As stated by CNN Health, diabetes smells like rotten apples, yellow fever smells like a butcher’s shop, and scrofula, tuberculosis of the lymph nodes, has a scent of stale beer.

According to, humans are also capable of sniffing out potential partners’ DNA, called major histocompatibility genes (MHC), to determine with whom they are compatible. People tend to be drawn to others whose MHC components are different than theirs. This is a literal case of love at first smell.

A biologist named Claus Wedekind at the University of Lausanne in Switzerland tested this theory by having 44 men wear unused T-shirts for two straight nights. Wedekind provided the men with unscented soap and aftershave to ensure that the sweat on the T-shirts would remain “odor-neutral” while testing.

After two nights, 49 women sniffed the shirts and expressed which odors they found most attractive. As a result, most of the women preferred the smell of T-shirts worn by men who were immunologically dissimilar to them, according to Psychology Today.

In ancestral times, people smelled all-natural without the help of showers and fragrance products. Some researches say perfumes, deodorants, scented soaps, and colognes all mask people’s true scents, which makes it harder to assess compatibility. Instead of interrupting this natural process of attraction, musky, earthy scents like sandalwood or amber can bring out natural pheromones without overpowering them.

“My first impressions of someone usually begins with their scent,” Jaewoo Lee, senior, said.

Body odor is a natural phenomenon that holds a lot of meaning behind it, whether it be a compatibility measure or illness seeker. With more experiments being tested, the discoveries all makes scents now.