Saturday, December 24, 2011

The smell of Christmas

How does Christmas smell like? 

Like cinnamon! So say studies by European scientists  [1-3]. And even though the smell of cinnamon is described as "pungent" (besides "warm", 'sweet", and "spicy"), it fires up our brains, evoking a joyful Christmas mood and making us more generous. 

Cinnamon is classified as a stimulant. Smelling and tasting cinnamon could enhance attention and virtual recognition memory [4], at least in comparison to smells of peppermint, jasmine or cherries. In addition to its many healthy properties - like fighting E.coli in unpasteurized juices, lowering concentration of  fasting glucose, triglycerides, and total cholesterol - Cinnamon can make you feel fuller for longer [5]. So for those of us hoping to lose some weight - a cinnamon-flavored floss would be a good replacement for a Christmas desert.

Aggregate correlations - aka experience of the crowds analyzed in Aurametrix - tell many good things about Cinnamon. For example, that it led to less severe joint pain and helped with bad breath. Although - in higher concentrations - it was the reason of a yellowish skin.

Unfortunately for those with digestive problems, other Christmas-flavored foods seemed to have more side effects. Aurametrix correlations for Apple told that exceeding sensitivity thresholds could lead to gas, fecal and musty smell (was this why an apple a day kept the doctor away?). Too much orange was associated with bloating, indigestion and yellow stool. Pumpkin, on the other hand, lead to slightly better flavored gas!

With more daily observations entered by the users, Aurametrix will make more correlations between wellbeing and food flavors. But for now -

Merry Christmas! And let's smell some cinnamon!


1. Seo HS, Buschhüter D, & Hummel T (2009). Odor attributes change in relation to the time of the year. Cinnamon odor is more familiar and pleasant during Christmas season than summertime. Appetite, 53 (2), 222-5 PMID: 19576937

2. Martin Lindström, Philip Kotler. Brand Sense: Sensory Secrets Behind the Stuff We Buy. Simon and Schuster, Feb 2, 2010

3. Idle JR. Christmas gingerbread (Lebkuchen) and Christmas cheer--review of the potential role of mood elevating amphetamine-like compounds formed in vivo and in furno. Prague.Med Rep. 2005;106(1):27-38.

4. Phillip Zoladz.  2003-2004 Allyn & Bacon Award Abstracts. Impact of the Chemical Senses on Augmenting Memory, Attention, Reaction Time, Problem Solving, and Response Variability: The Differential Role of Retronasal Versus Orthonasal Odorant Administration

5. Hlebowicz, J., Hlebowicz, A., Lindstedt, S., Bjorgell, O., Hoglund, P., Holst, J., Darwiche, G., & Almer, L. (2009). Effects of 1 and 3 g cinnamon on gastric emptying, satiety, and postprandial blood glucose, insulin, glucose-dependent insulinotropic polypeptide, glucagon-like peptide 1, and ghrelin concentrations in healthy subjects American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 89 (3), 815-821 DOI: 10.3945/ajcn.2008.26807

6. Khan A, Safdar M, Ali Khan MM, Khattak KN, Anderson RA. Cinnamon improves glucose and lipids of people with type 2 diabetes. Diabetes Care 2003;26:3215–8.

7. Catherine Ulbricht, Erica Seamon, Regina C. Windsor, Nicole Armbruester, J. Kathryn Bryan, Dawn Costa, Nicole Giese, Joerg Gruenwald, Ramon Iovin, Richard Isaac, Jill M. Grimes Serrano, Shaina Tanguay-Colucci, Wendy Weissner, Heeja Yoon, and Jie Zhang. An Evidence-Based Systematic Review of Cinnamon (Cinnamomum spp.) by the Natural Standard Research Collaboration.  Journal of Dietary Supplements, December 2011, Vol. 8, No. 4 : Pages 378-454 (doi: 10.3109/19390211.2011.627783)

Monday, December 5, 2011

The Road to Ammonia

Why do I smell like Ammonia? This question, in thousands of variations, has been asked over and over again at every major question/answer site, especially teen, bodybuilding and athletic forums.

The Internet provides plenty of opinions.

Medical sites talk about diseases like chronic kidney failure, hepatic cirrhosis or H. pylori infection. Fitness sites recommend drinking more water, reevaluating protein sources and eating more carbohydrates.
What are these diet-odor links? And what's the Science? Ammonia may be formed during the alkaline hydrolysis and deamidation of proteins - by our own metabolism and the metabolism of microbes that call us home. If our kidneys can't handle the load of nitrogen, it's excreted as ammonia in sweat. Excretion increases 10 times as temperature goes from 70 to 100 Fahrenheit.

Aurametrix is a breakthrough analysis tool that correlates users' actions and reactions based on what information they enter into the system. Preliminary correlations in the Aurametrix knowledge base show exactly what's expected: excess protein does lead to ammonia-like odor.

But wait a minute - does it say the same about excess fat?

An  example provided by one of our users is very interesting. The user logged a few foods he thought were contributing to odor. These were different odors according to the user - ranging from "Ammonia-like" to "Fishy", sharp, cloying and stale. Aurametrix, however, recognized that all these odors described by the user may be related to nitrogen-containing compounds.  When these three data points were analyzed along with four foods that the user did not associate with any odors, Aurametrix displayed only one result:

Based on your Aura entries, the following may be contributing to "Ammoniacal odor" in a 3 hour timeframe:

Hexadecanoic acid  - commonly known as Palmitic acid - is one of the most common saturated fatty acids in the Western diet. Palm oil and coconut oil contain especially high levels of this acid. What effect does this acid have on metabolism? It down-regulates glycose metabolism and protein metabolism, affecting Calcium or mRNA binding proteins [1]. So there may very well be a connection!

Want to connect the dots to your own health and wellbeing and see what you have in common with others?

Write to:


Hovsepyan, M., Sargsyan, E., & Bergsten, P. (2010). Palmitate-induced changes in protein expression of insulin secreting INS-1E cells Journal of Proteomics, 73 (6), 1148-1155 DOI: 10.1016/j.jprot.2010.01.012

Trabue S, Kerr B, Bearson B, Ziemer C. Swine odor analyzed by odor panels and chemical techniques. J Environ Qual. 2011 Sep-Oct;40(5):1510-20.

Ito, Shigeji; Kohli, Yoshihiro; Kato, Takuji; Abe, Yoshimichi; Ueda, Takashi
Significance of ammonia produced by Helicobacter pylori. European Journal of Gastroenterology & Hepatology. 6(2):167-174, February 1994.

Qiu, Y.T., Smallegange, R.C., Van Loon, J.J.A., Takken, W. 2011 Behavioural responses of Anopheles gambiae sensu stricto to components of human breath, sweat and urine depend on mixture composition and concentration. Medical and Veterinary Entomology 25 (3), pp. 247-255

Enrique Wolpert, M.D., Sidney F. Phillips, M.D., and W. H. J. Summerskill, D.M. Ammonia Production in the Human Colon — Effects of Cleansing, Neomycin and Acetohydroxamic Acid N Engl J Med 1970; 283:159-164

V Bhatia, R Singh, S K Acharya Liver: Predictive value of arterial ammonia for complications and outcome in acute liver failure. Gut 2006;55:98-104 Published Online First: 15 July 2005 doi:10.1136/gut.2004.061754

Consolazio, C.F., Nelson, R.A., Matoush, L.O., Canham, J.E. Nitrogen excretion in sweat and its relation to nitrogen balance requirements. J Nutr. 1963 Apr; 79:399-406.

Ammonia in personal care products:
After Bite ointments
Hair dyes

Ammonia in household products:
Ammonia Removing Products
Glass Cleaners
Kitchen Cleaners