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Your odour says much.

There's much more to body odour than passing asniff test

BODY ODOUR, at its very extreme, can ruin job interviews or first dates.

Undoubtedly, most of us spend a considerable amount of time trying to prevent body odour, whether by taking a shower or applying deos.

For most healthy adults, all it takes keep off a foul odour is proper hygiene. But for some, it could also indicate an underlying health problem that needs immediate attention.

There is, after all, more to body odour than just passing a sniff test.

Body odour is simply the interaction between sweat and bacteria on a person's skin. "It is the combination of secretion of fatty acids from the sweat glands in armpits and groin and certain skin bacteria," says Dr Anoop Misra, chairman, Fortis C- DOC Hospital for Diabetes and Metabolic Diseases. The power of odour is such that it enables even newborn babies identifying their moms.

Interestingly, a team of Spanish researchers has claimed that body odour can be used as an accurate biometric identifier, due chemical patterns in the smell that are unaffected by body changes and are unique to each person.

The idea of body odour identification though isn't new as it has been used since ages for training police squad dogs.


A strong, stinky sweat is much more than social embarrassment.

"For example, a musty odour in skin, breath or hair can indicate phenylketonuria, genetic disorder. People with chronic kidney problems may have a body odour that smells like ammonia resulting from higher retention of wastes in their blood that evaporates with sweat," says Dr P Sharma New Delhi- based internal medicine specialist.

Foul smell can also indicate metabolic disorder. "It occurs when your body is unable to process some food proteins," points out Dr Misra.

Not only is body odour significant in sexual behaviour, it also plays a role in the choice partners. "Men and women tend to prefer the odour of individuals who are genetically dissimilar to them which helps in reducing the chances inbreeding," says Dr Sudhir Ghosh, New Delhi- based internal medicine specialist.

"Certain body odour may appeal more to the opposite gender, which can help choose a sexual mate. Mothers, children and blood relatives sometimes identify each other through body odour. Finally, it may signal some diseases," adds Dr Misra.

Odours are much more specific than you think. "They not just an outcome of sweat. We have a signature odour, which characterised our genetics, gender, hormones, diet, age and environmental factors; all this explains body odour at the onset of puberty, mate choices, and the ability of babies in identifying their mothers," says Dr Sharma.

However, it is not always triggered by hormonal disorders.

"In fact, it is strongly influenced by genes (ABCCC11). Certain races (East Asians) have less sweat glands and hence less body odour.

Certain diseases, diabetes, and kidney and liver failures may change body odour. Increase in sweating in thyroid disorders, menopause, low sugar states, nerve damage and heart disease may also cause increase in body odour," says Dr Misra. While there are a number of spices that alter body odours, there is no proven research on the link between spicy and curried foods causing change in body odour.


While a number of medical conditions can cause the way you sweat or your sweat smells, proper hygiene remains the key irrespective of your health status. An antimicrobial product or an antipersperitant can help clear that reek in most healthy adults. However, proper hygiene and certain other simple measures can help you in staying off that body odour. "All it takes is meticulous hygiene, right temperature to avoid sweating, and use of non- irritating perfumes," says Dr Misra. And don't forget to bathe and dry your feet, and wear loose, cotton clothing. Last but not least, a balanced diet can help.

"A diet containing 20 per cent protein and drinking plenty of water can help strip you off that odour," says Dr Sharma.

One tip to have a pleasant odour through the day is to add some mint leaves to boiled water and add it to your bath.

A tablespoon of honey to your bath can also help rid the foul odour, says Dr Ghosh.

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Publication:Mail Today (New Delhi, India)
Date:Jul 22, 2014
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