The body odor changes with age

Body odor: Study: A person's age can be recognized by their odor

The complex chemical composition of body odor gives us a range of biological and social information. According to a research team from the USA led by biologist Susanna Mitro from the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia, the body odor of a person develops depending on their age. Older people have a characteristic body odor, the so-called "old people odor", which is independent of ethnic cultures. This is due to the fact that body odor consists of an interplay between skin secretions, bacterial activity and excretions from the organs. For their study, the researchers divided the examined people into three age groups: young (20 to 30 years old), middle age (45 to 55 years old) and old (75 to 95 years old).

From this classification, the researchers derived two theses. First: people can distinguish odor samples based on the age of the donor and second: they can even identify a specific age group using the odor samples.

In the odor test, test persons were able to clearly identify the age group 75 to 95 years

The results of the odor test were astonishing. While there were regular misjudgments when assigning body odor to age in the "young" and "middle-aged" category because the odor difference in this group was simply not big enough, a large majority could clearly assign body odor to the "old" age group. The individual substances that give us information about a person's age are not yet known.

Everyone knows this experience. When entering a retirement home or when visiting grandparents, we perceive an unfamiliar smell. Sometimes it is also our own feelings that make us perceive a person's smell differently.

Why do older people smell different?

nutrition: Our diet has an impact on our body exhalations. For example, when we eat garlic, the smell is given off through the skin. It's not bad breath. That's why brushing your teeth doesn't help either. Due to social changes, for example through a stay in an old people's home or through the diet of "meals on wheels", the food sometimes has a different composition. A change in the weighting of carbohydrates and fat, for example, affects the body's exhalation.

metabolism: In the elderly, metabolic disorders, organ disorders or reduced activity of the excretory organs such as the kidneys and liver are common. If the skin of elderly people smells like urine, there may be a disorder of kidney function.

bacteria: As the US scientists have found out, body odor is also influenced by bacteria on the skin, because sweat itself does not smell. Only when it is broken down by bacteria does the typical unpleasant sweat odor arise. This can change depending on the composition of the skin. When the production of the sebum and sweat glands in older people is reduced, the skin becomes drier. The spectrum of skin germs is shifting.

Feelings: Our perception of smell is also influenced by our feelings. If you perceive a person's smell as changed, it is possible that the way they feel about them has changed. You can sometimes "no longer smell" these people. Even if we perceive the smell of people we know differently, it can still be that this is only based on our imagination and the smell has never changed.