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Health, Science

The Science of Love!

What makes people fall in love?

Isn't this how we're supposed to fall in love?

A man and woman’s eyes meet across a busy room. They meet each other and start a conversation. Then suddenly BANG! Our beautiful couple realise they have the magical ‘spark’ and they hit it off. It’s not long before they are ‘in love’ and gazing blissfully into each other’s eyes in front of a beautiful sunset! 

Or something like that.

What we aren’t told is that the secret of falling in love is to do with the smell of each other’s sweat!

Sweat? You can’t be serious?

Feel free to do away with the soppy music, the chocolates and flowers because love may have more to do with science than romance! That’s right ladies, you may think you’d like to be whisked off your feet by Johnny Depp or Brad Pitt but unless he smells right you probably won’t find him attractive.

The Smelly T-Shirt Test

A group of women are sat around a table. They each receive a plastic container, open it and sniff. After smelling, they give a rating on how pleasant it is; some women like certain aromas, others don’t. It could be a scene from a perfume shop, but it isn’t. They aren’t smelling expensive fragrances but men’s sweat.

Our sense of smell is finely tuned to 'pheromones' from the opposite sex

This experiment was first conducted about 5 years ago on women in Switzerland. Female students were asked to smell T-shirts that a man had worn in bed for the previous two nights. Sounds disgusting doesn’t it? Incredibly, the women said some of the sweaty garments smelt pleasant – even ‘attractive’! Each woman had a different favourite.

This research has been repeated many times since and the overwhelming conclusion is that there is something in a man’s sweat that says something unique about him. It makes him attractive to certain women and not to others. His sweat doesn’t communicate anything about his looks, intelligence or natural charm but about his genetics.

 

 

 

 

My sweat says something about my genetics?!

Sweat is composed of mostly water, a little bit of salt and a minute amount of protein. It is this protein (which happens to be produced from our immune system) that the women are ‘smelling’. We smell these ‘pheremones’ more attracted when come from someone genetically different to us. So, if you were to smell the body odour of someone in your family (a brother, sister, or cousin for example) they would be genetically very similar and you would find their body odour ‘unattractive’. You would instinctively know that you wouldn’t want a romantic relationship with them. This seems to be nature’s way of stopping us inbreeding.

But there are also other benefits to our highly sensitive ‘love smell’: Should you have children with your ideal ‘smell match’ partner, your offspring will be healthier and have stronger immune systems; We are hard-wired to sniff out someone that is an ideal genetic match to us!

Sniffing on a first date? No thanks!

If you don’t fancy giving your potential partner a good sniff in the arm pits before settling into married life, a company have devised a solution. For a sizable fee a DNA dating service will send you a ‘DNA sampling kit’. When you send it back they will see if they can find your ideal genetic love match!

Forget the ‘Lynx Effect’…

Forget the Lynx Effect guys - just trust your natural odour!

Is there any scientfic advice to those looking for love? You could throw away the deodorant and start wearing some old sweaty clothes. Mr or Miss Right should come running!

I can’t wait to tell my wife the good news. think of all the money we could save on toiletries and washing…

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Thanks for reading! Your comments and feedback are warmly welcomed!

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Further Reading:

Watch the sweaty T-shirt test from a BBC documentary: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-drpViV5LSw&feature=related

Don’t want the hassle of having to sniff your potential partner? There’s a new DNA dating service just for you! Read about it at: http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/08044/856905-51.stm

Read more about the sweaty T-shirt experiment: http://www.eoht.info/page/Sweaty+T-shirt+study

If you are a woman on the contraceptive pill – be advised: your sense of smell may let you down when it comes to choosing a mate: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=birth-control-pills-affect-womens-taste 

References:

Thornhill, R, Gangestad, S, Miller, R,Scheyd, G, McCollough, J and Franklin, M. (2003). Major histocompatibility complex genes, symmetry, and body scent attractiveness in men and women. Behavioral Ecology. (available online at: http://beheco.oxfordjournals.org/content/14/5/668.full)

Wedekind, C, Seebeck,T, Bettens, F, and Paepke, AJ (1995). “MHC-dependent preferences in humans.” Proceedings of the Royal Society of London 260: 245-49. (available online at: http://www.coherer.org/pub/mhc.pdf)

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About Stuart Farrimond

I love writing about science and health subjects. Strange, because I also teach the same things. I trained as a medical doctor before turning my hand to other things. Shortlisted for The Guardian/Observer for Science Writer of the Year 2011 and editor for Guru Magazine I also like to grow large pumpkins...

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