Showing posts with label Smell. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Smell. Show all posts

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

The Smell of Stress and Fear

Can we recognize if people around us are stressed, anxious or fearful without observing their facial expressions, body language and actions or hearing their voice and messages? Can we understand if we are stressed ourselves without assessing our heart rate, blood pressure, noticing dry throat, sweating, drops or surges in energy? Yes, we can - by using our nose - as humans, too, recognize and transmit their emotions through chemical senses.

When we are stressed or panic we become more sensitive to odors (Buróna et al., 2015), ranking neutral odors as unpleasant (Krusemark et al, 2013). Chronic stress will actually dull the senses (Yuan & Slotnick, 2013), but that's another story.

When other people are stressed, we can feel it without seeing or hearing them. Numerous experiments showed that we can recognize emotions from sweat alone. We might not be able to tell why, but experience sympathy by smelling odors of those taking exams vs just exercising on a bike (Prehn-Kristensen et al 2009), become more cooperative when smelling hard work, more submissive when detecting that other people's health status prioritizes their needs, more fearful when detecting chemical clues coming from people watching horror movies (Zhou and Chen, 2009, de Groot et al., 2012) and exhibit risk taking behavior when detecting other people's anxieties (Haegler et al, 2010).

What is the exact chemistry of stress, anxiety and fear? We are getting close to deciphering it. Stress, for example, might be recognized by six biomarkers, including indole and 2-methyl-pentadecane (Turner et al, 2013) that are also indicators of COPD (Martinez-Lozano Sinues et al, 2014) and heart disease

Correlating chemicals to health and wellness conditions is not easy. Acetone in breath, for example, has attracted the interest of clinical researchers for more than 60 years. Several dozen independent studies using various techniques and methods showed that much more complex analysis is required with long-term measurements of various health and environmental indicators including diet, treatments and prior medical history (Dowlaty, Yoon, and Galassetti, 2013). Aurametrix provides an integrated platform for such analysis, but until we sift through all the data, if you are stressed out, just take a deep breath and relax. Inhale confidence, exhale doubt.


REFERENCES

Haegler, K., Zernecke, R., Kleemann, A., Albrecht, J., Pollatos, O., Brückmann, H., & Wiesmann, M. (2010). No fear no risk! Human risk behavior is affected by chemosensory anxiety signals Neuropsychologia, 48 (13), 3901-3908 DOI: 10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2010.09.019


Prehn-Kristensen A, Wiesner C, Bergmann TO, Wolff S, Jansen O, Mehdorn HM, Ferstl R, & Pause BM (2009). Induction of empathy by the smell of anxiety. PloS one, 4 (6) PMID: 19551135

Dowlaty N, Yoon A, & Galassetti P (2013). Monitoring states of altered carbohydrate metabolism via breath analysis: are times ripe for transition from potential to reality? Current opinion in clinical nutrition and metabolic care, 16 (4), 466-72 PMID: 23739629

de Groot JH, Smeets MA, Kaldewaij A, Duijndam MJ, & Semin GR (2012). Chemosignals communicate human emotions. Psychological science, 23 (11), 1417-24 PMID: 23019141

Krusemark EA, Novak L, Gitelman D, Li W. (2013) When the sense of smell meets emotion: Anxiety-state-dependent olfactory processing and neural circuitry adaptation. Journal of Neuroscience. 33(39):15324 –15332.

Martinez-Lozano Sinues P, Meier L, Berchtold C, Ivanov M, Sievi N, Camen G, Kohler M, Zenobi R Department of Chemistry and Applied Biosciences, ETH Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland. Respiration; International Review of Thoracic Diseases [2014, 87(4):301-310] PMID: 25545545

Yuan TF, Slotnick BM. Roles of olfactory system dysfunction in depression. (2014) Prog Neuropsychopharmacol Biol Psychiatry. 54:26-30. doi: 10.1016/j.pnpbp.2014.05.013. 

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Body Odor and Skin Bacteria

Our bodies are rainforests of microbes feeding off the leftovers from our meals and contributing to a variety of body odors. 

Human skin is inhabited and re-populated depending on health conditions, age, genetics, diet, the weather and climate zones, occupations, cosmetics, soaps, hygienic products and moisturizers. All these factors contribute to the variation in the types of microbes. Population of viruses, for example, can include a mixture of good ones - like bacteriophages fighting acne-causing Propionibacterium  - and bad ones  - as highly contagious Mesles. Bacterial communities include thousands of species of Actinobacteria, Bacteroidetes, Cyanobacteria, Proteobacteria, and fungi Malassezia.
Nat Rev Microbiol. 2011 April; 9(4): 244–253.
Nat Rev Microbiol. 2011 April; 9(4): 244–253.
These microbes form communities and have active social lives, cooperating to our good and bad experiences. They converse chemically - in many specific dialects and in universal Esperanto-like languages some of which even we could listen to  - by sampling and understanding smells. 
Humans are among the smelliest animals. And very capable in telling smells apart,  even if the only difference in two molecules is that their structures are mirror images of one another. But unlike dogs that appreciate a garbage bin as much as we appreciate the smell of fresh flowers, we don't properly interpret smells and like to complain about body odors. As we don't know all that much about chemical nature of our surroundings and rely on context and psychological factors, like feeling an intrusion in our experiences of the world. 

Maybe we have something to learn from the science of smells? 

In  a recent review of axillary microbiota, German researchers gave a good lesson in organic chemistry, listing major chemicals, enzymes and microbes responsible for body odor. Let's take a look. 

As was also shown in previous studies, Staphylococcus and Corynebacterium spp. are the most abundant organisms colonizing moist areas and emitting chicken-sulfury, onion-like and clary-sage like odors. The strain of Staphylococcus haemolyticus is producing some of the most offensive sulfury smells. Corynebacterium jeikeium K411 is another species that can compete on the strength of the odor. 

The major odor-causing substances are sulphanyl alkanols, steroid derivatives and short volatile branched-chain fatty acids. 

Most common sulphanyl alkanol in human sweat, 3-methyl-3-sulfanylhexan-1-ol is produced by bacteria in several ways, particularly in glutathione biodetoxification pathway, from molecules synthesized after consuming proteins (due to aminoacids L-cysteine, L-glutamic acid and glycin). This chemical,  besides being a major descriptor of human sweat odor,  is also present in beers. Its S-enantiomer (75%) is described as a classical body odor (sweat) with onion-like tones. Interestingly, the opposite enantiomer, (R)-3-methyl-3-sulfanylhexan-1-ol, is fruity and grapefruit-like. 

Another set of molecules produced by Corinebacterium are most prominent in Caucasian men and some Asians. The odor is hircine - resembling of goats with fatty and cheesy notes or cumin-spice like. The food sources contributing to this odor are proteins and animal fats. 

Pheromones androstenol and androstenone, metabolites of sexual hormones, are also odorous. The latter is especially interesting as to some of us it smells like vanilla while to others is smells like urine.

Sweaty-feet and cheesy smelling isovaleric and propionic acids and sour-vinegary acetic acid are also adding to the spectrum of human odors.  They can smell different to different people too - some people have genetic makeup making them hypersensitive to these smells, but others are much more tolerant and forgiving. The food sources of sourish smells are protein-rich. Lactic acid is found in cheeses, yogurt, soy sauce, sourdough, meats and pickled vegetables. It can be also produced from the breakdown of carbohydrates during exercise and used as additional fuel. Glycerol is created from triglycerides found in fats and oils.  


So next time you are exposed to body odor, try to understand what could be causing it. It is not easy as it is a combination of many factors such as hormonal fluctuations, mental or physical stress, metabolism and microbes. It could be perfectly normal or result from a medical condition of the person who has the smell and your own olfactory abilities. But the smells are fascinating clues to health and  the basics can be learned by most everyone.
REFERENCES

Fredrich E, Barzantny H, Brune I, & Tauch A (2013). Daily battle against body odor: towards the activity of the axillary microbiota. Trends in microbiology, 21 (6), 305-12 PMID: 23566668

Grice EA, & Segre JA (2012). The human microbiome: our second genome. Annual review of genomics and human genetics, 13, 151-70 PMID: 22703178

Stevenson, R., & Repacholi, B. (2005). Does the source of an interpersonal odour affect disgust? A disease risk model and its alternatives. European Journal of Social Psychology, 35 (3), 375-401 DOI: 10.1002/ejsp.263

Troccaz M, Starkenmann C, Niclass Y, van de Waal M, Clark AJ.  ( 2004) 3-Methyl-3-sulfanylhexan-1-ol as a major descriptor for the human axilla-sweat odour profile.Chem Biodivers. 2004 Jul;1(7):1022-35. PMID: 17191896

Lenochová P, Vohnoutová P, Roberts SC, Oberzaucher E, Grammer K, Havlíček J (2012) Psychology of fragrance use: perception of individual odor and perfume blends reveals a mechanism for idiosyncratic effects on fragrance choice. (PMID:22470479) Free full text article  PLoS One [2012, 7(3):e33810]
Barzantny H, Brune I, Tauch A. (2012) Molecular basis of human body odour formation: insights deduced from corynebacterial genome sequences. Int J Cosmet Sci. 2012 Feb;34(1):2-11. doi: 10.1111/j.1468-2494.2011.00669.x. Epub 2011 Jul 25.  PMID: 21790661

Thursday, June 6, 2013

When it Smells Like Team Spirit

Why do we connect and collaborate, deciding to "walk in the light of creative altruism" instead of the "darkness of destructive selfishness"?

Is it because of subtle behavioral clues that make us "click" and consider the other person a part of the group? Or is it because it smells like team spirit?

It very well might be. We (literally) smell love, victory, fear, along with chemicals that motivate us to cooperate. As was recently shown in double-blind placebo-controlled studies that quantitatively measured generosity and cooperation. Androstadienone, a rather unpleasant smelling molecule abundant in male sweat could make us more cooperative and more likely to think of the other person as "one of us". This molecule, created from male sex hormone testosterone possibly with the help of coryneform bacteria living under arms, was previously shown to have an effect on women - depending on social context and the time in their menstrual cycle. Even though androstadienone does not smell particularly plaasant - rather musky, with subtle urine-like and alcohol notes - merely smelling it is sufficient to maintain high levels of energy-boosting hormone cortisol  - possibly by inhibiting an enzyme (the 11β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase type 1 aka 11β-HSD1) responsible for its reactivation from cortisone.
Androstadienone

Androstadienone is related to another steroid estratetraenol found in the urine of pregnant women. Both molecules in large concentrations can affect mood -  improving it in females (also increasing their feeling of being focused and sensitivity to pain) while suppressing males. High testosterone males might even get depressed. So it might not be a good idea to sweat too much, but the right amount of sweating is actually helpful. If you are a male. When it comes to men deciding to cooperate with women, chemistry alone is less helpful. As in the old monkey experiment (Michael and Zumpe, 1982) where the best female strategy was to block male's access to other female monkeys. So, don't sweat it ladies. Just be dominant.



REFERENCES

Huoviala P, & Rantala MJ (2013). A Putative Human Pheromone, Androstadienone, Increases Cooperation between Men. PloS one, 8 (5) PMID: 23717389

Lundström JN, Hummel T, & Olsson MJ (2003). Individual differences in sensitivity to the odor of 4,16-androstadien-3-one. Chemical senses, 28 (7), 643-50 PMID: 14578126

 Michael RP, Zumpe D.  (1982) Influence of olfactory signals on the reproductive behaviour of social groups of rhesus monkeys (Macaca mulatta). J Endocrinol. 95(2):189-205. PMID: 7175415

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Come out smelling like a rose

You are what you eat. And you smell like your food. Well, it's actually a bit more complicated - as we emit complex combinations of volatile chemicals produced from food by our own metabolic system as well as microbes that call us home. Same foods can be translated into a wide range of odors, depending on the individual. People exhibit a large variety of smells, much more diverse than animals or plants. Thanks to variations in our digestive enzymes, diets, supplements, medicines, perfumes, detergents, clothes, cars and a lot of other chemicals we are exposed to via different routes. And there are many ways to smell of a rose - for example, by putting a few petals in the pocket, wearing Sa Majeste La Rose or drinking rose oil.
Come out smelling like a rose
As confirmed by gas-chromatograph mass spectrometry using a thermo desorption system and a selective ion mode (Akiyama et al., 2006), linalool, citronellol and geraniol, which are the main components of rose essential oil, are emitted from our palms after an oral intake of rose oil. The aroma starts to increase 30 minutes after ingestion and reaches its peak within an hour, then slowly decreases, wearing off more than 100 times in the next 6 hours. Citronellol seems to evaporate the fastest, and linalool lingers a little longer than the other two compounds, but, of course, this may very well differ for different individuals.

A new "functional food" - Deo Perfume Candy  - is an attempt to take the sciences of smells and foods to a whole new level by creating a sweet treat intended to make you smell good. The main active ingredient of this candies is Geraniol. It is extracted from rose oil, which in its turn is extracted from real rose petals - one gram of oil per two thousand petals. Small amounts of citric acid and tangerine oil are added for more flavor. An healthy food company Beneo partnered with Bulgarian candy maker, Alpi, to develop this nutricosmetics  treat. At present it is sold exclusively on Amazon and has already collected 5 reviews - ranging from a praise of the observed fresh-just-showered smell to complaints of the need to eat a buck load of candies to see some kind of effect. Does it really work? It might for some of us. With the right chemistry and metabolism, and the right combination of everything else. You can enter it in Aurametrix as Deo Perfume Candy and check back later to see how it worked for others. Or just log what you normally eat and wear to find how your body could react to Geraniol.

You might want to compare it with “Fuwarinka” or Otoko Kaoru's chewing gum - despite a name that translates to "man smell" it also contains rose-flavored geraniol. Although one tester reported to smell like an apple-flavored soap after chewing it.  You can also experiment with the "coming soon" edible perfume from Netherlands, and its mystery ingredient. There will be more to come.

The possibilities are endless and so are the human odor outcomes.

REFERENCES

AKIYAMA, A., IMAI, K., ISHIDA, S., ITO, K., KOBAYASHI, T., NAKAMURA, H., NOSE, K., & TSUDA, T. (2006). Determination of Aromatic Compounds in Exhalated from Human Skin by Solid-Phase Micro Extraction and GC/MS with Thermo Desorption System BUNSEKI KAGAKU, 55 (10), 787-792 DOI: 10.2116/bunsekikagaku.55.787

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Chemicals in food affecting body odor

Volatile compounds (complex organic and simple like hydrogen sulfide and ammonia), together with sugars and acids, are the main chemicals determining the characteristic aroma of food, as well as odors related to human body.

The bad smells are generally the result of a combination of odorous sulfur compounds and ammonia.

Volatile sulfur compounds are produced through bacterial metabolism of sulfur amino acids such as cysteine and methionine. High sulfur content in food is another source.

Choline  - a quaternary saturated amine  - can lead to increases in the amount of trimethylamine responsible for sweet and sickly, fish-like smell.

How to estimate the amount of choline, sulfur and sulfur-containing aminoacids in your food?
You can do it easily with Aurametrix.
Watch these videos:



Saturday, November 5, 2011

What's that fatty odor?

Body odor is closely associated with diet. Deciphering the chemistry of human odor is not an easy task - only about 5% of odorous molecules are usually recovered from collection containers, and not all of the molecules are identified in complex spectra. Volatile fatty acids, alcohols, and aromatic ring compounds comprise a substantial fraction of smelly molecules, yet very little is known about the origin and factors controlling their production in humans. Fortunately for some (and not so fortunately for others), the human nose can capture and discriminate many smell signatures. Could this discrimination be used to connect the dots between diet and body odor? MEBO Research has just started an anonymous study using the Aurametrix health analysis tool to find out.

Aurametrix's knowledge base provides a wide selection of foods and symptoms, including different types of odors recognizable by the human nose. Participants in the study have been recording some of their food intake and activities on days when their symptoms are better or worse than average, entering items they suspect might be contributing to or alleviating their body odor on those days. The tool's analysis engine then lets them explore all the possible cause-effect relationships. In addition, Aurametrix performs automated analyses across the entire user community and displays cumulative results as "aggregate correlations." The figure on the right is an excerpt from these results.

Although the study has only just begun, the preliminary results already look very interesting. One example is fatty odor. Aurametrix linked several dietary chemicals to unpleasant "fatty odor" emanating from skin based on Aura entries of several participants. The top chemicals so far are:  Vitamin K1 (phylloquinone), Octadecanoic acid, FODMAPs, Beta-carotene,  Carbohydrates and Monosaccharides. Another interesting result (although there were fewer observations) is that Vitamin B12 obtained from diet seemed to help prevent fatty body odor.
  • Could Vitamin K1 really contribute to "fatty" odor?  Could 6 observations derived from different users' Auras be just a coincidence? Vitamin K is proposed to increase production of alkaline phosphatase in intestines. This enzyme produces a number of different substances, some of which have a peculiar sweetish smell.  Chlorophyll, usually recommended to combat body odor and supposedly makes odor "sweeter," is an excellent source of vitamin K1. And so is Asparagus that gives urine a disagreeable odor.
  • Octadecanoic (Stearic) acid was also linked to fatty odor in 6 observations. This saturated fatty acid is most abundant in animal fats and cocoa butter, and also in nuts and seeds (peanuts, flax), cheese, cookies and candies. Its smell is fairly mild, yet can be detected by the human nose (Bolton and Halpern, 2010). Besides, it slowly converts in the liver to heart-healthy oleic acid which has a faintly fatty odor with a hint of dead insects. It could also metabolize into other compounds and incorporate into liver lipids or follow alternative routes.
  • FODMAPs, highly fermentable but poorly absorbed short-chain carbohydrates and polyols, were found to be an important dietary factor contributing to gastrointestinal symptoms. Perhaps FODMAPs, carbohydrates and monosacharides in particular could also contribute to odor in the absence of GI discomfort?
  • Beta-carotene is another heart-healthy chemical with anticancerous properties important in human nutrition as a source of Vitamin A. Tobacco, tea, many spices and flowers owe their flavors to chemicals metabolized from beta-carotene. One of such chemicals is warm and woody beta-Ionone that smells of blackberry at lower concentrations and fatty-cheesy at higher concentrations.

The chemistry of odors and their origins is undoubtedly very complex. Yet, these preliminary results show that together we may find the answers to many health-related questions. With more participants, we'll soon connect the dots between diet and body odor. Want to participate? Write to:



References

Bolton B, & Halpern BP (2010). Orthonasal and retronasal but not oral-cavity-only discrimination of vapor-phase fatty acids. Chemical senses, 35 (3), 229-38 PMID: 20100787

Dunkel M, Schmidt U, Struck S, Berger L, Gruening B, Hossbach J, Jaeger IS, Effmert U, Piechulla B, Eriksson R, Knudsen J, & Preissner R (2009). SuperScent--a database of flavors and scents. Nucleic acids research, 37 (Database issue) PMID: 18931377

Monday, February 1, 2010

Foods and Smells

Kagome started as a tomato grower, and its mai...Image via Wikipedia
How many flavors are out there? We often hear only about these five - sweet, sour, salty, bitter and savory (umami), but there are so many more and they are important not only to our tastes but also health.
Remember that fresh grassy smell wafting up from the newly sliced tomato? It may be it's way of saying  "I'm good for you".
Stephen A. Goff and Harry J. Klee's article "Plant Volatile Compounds: Sensory Cues for Health and Nutritional Value?" published in a 2006 issue of Science explains why odors from foods may be nutritional or health signals that the human nose has learned to recognize.
Among the things emmigrants from less developed countries miss in USA is the scent of fresh tomatoes. One of the volatile compounds associated with the “grassy” tomato flavor, cis-3-Hexenal, is also an indicator of fatty acids essential to the human diet. Wild tomato contained more than three times the amount of that chemical than the cultivated version in the developed world. Two other contributors to tomato flavor — 2- and 3-methylbutanal — are indicators of the presence of essential amino acids and are also three times more common in the wild tomato. Same applies to commercial apples, strawberries, bread, cheese, even wine and beer.
Flavorful curcumin in tumeric has anti-inflammatory properties, compounds in ginger have antioxidants, and there are antimicrobial chemicals that contribute to the scent of onions, garlic, rosemary, sage, clove, mustard, chili peppers and thyme.
There are hundreds of volatile compounds in foods and beverages, often a major factor in how taste of foods is perceived.
What smells people enjoy the most?
Joanne Camas from Epicurious.com lists these 5 food smells:

1. Fried onions cooking
2. Banana bread baking (extra points if it has chocolate chips in it)
3. A perfectly ripe tomato as you slice into it, especially on a warm, sunny day
4. Coffee brewing
5. Garlic bread, fresh out of the oven
Most people commenting on this post listed baked breads and coffee as their top favorites too. Other choices include pies, spices and meats.


Here are some of the responses pulled from different blogs. What are your top five?
chefrosey 12:23:21 PM on 02/01/10
Chocolate
Fresh brewed coffee
Fresh baked bread
Fresh picked strawberries or an orange being peeled!
Any baked good coming out of the oven!
chef330 12:14:17 PM on 02/01/10
1. Onions sauteeing in butter
2. Chocolate Chip Cookies coming out of the oven
3. Just-picked peaches
4. Hot Apple Pie
5. European Butter - you can smell the flavor


Janet Tue Feb 2, 2010 2:22pm PST

apple pie baking in the oven
tralala311 Tue Feb 2, 2010 2:25pm PST

mmmm... GUMBO!!!
Habanero♥™ Tue Feb 2, 2010 2:32pm PST

Bacon, Baking Bread, Turkey, Pumpkin Pie, Molasses Cookies, Cinnamon Rolls.

Sherri Tue Feb 2, 2010 2:53pm PST

Coffee brewing, Chocolate Chip Cookies, Cinnammon Rolls, Bread, Pumkin Pie
__A_YAHOO_USER__ Wed Feb 3, 2010 9:21am PST
i think there's something about a roast that's been slow cooking all day that smells delicious, it'd be on my top 5 for sure.
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