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Men might be able to tell how fertile women are by how nice they smell

INSIDER logoINSIDER 9/13/2018 Lindsay Dodgson
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Video: Men might be able to tell how fertile women are by how nice they smell (Buzz60)

Humans may not have the olfactory abilities of other species like dogs, but smell is an important part of our lives all the same. It's even a factor when we're deciding whether we fancy someone or not.

According to a new study, published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, the scent of certain women is more appealing to men than others.

Researchers from the University of Bern, the University of Constance, the Thurgauer Institute of Economics, and University Hospital, Inselspital Bern, wanted to find out whether men preferred the scent of women who were at different points in their menstrual cycle. This could be found out by measuring the hormones levels of 28 women, whose scents were then rated by 57 men.

"Women with high oestrogen and low progesterone levels are most attractive to men in an olfactory sense," said Daria Knoch, lead researcher of the study.

This balance of hormones indicates high female fertility, so it makes sense that men would find women more attractive while they are at this stage. From an evolutionary standpoint, it means they are more likely to be able to have children.

Past research has also shown how women are perceived as more sexually appealing at certain points in their menstrual cycle, as high oestrogen levels make their face and body attractive to men. So in theory, adding scent into the mix increases the likelihood of reproduction even more.

The team also looked into whether the stress hormone cortisol or certain genes may also influence women's attractiveness.

"Several studies postulate that the choice of a partner is based on the man and woman having a different immune system so that children are given the best possible defence against pathogens from birth," said lead author Janek Lobmaier. One theory for why we kiss, for instance, is that is enables us to smell and taste a person to see if you have a different immune response.

However, the results found that immune system genes and cortisol levels didn't have an impact in this case.

During the study, the women were not allowed to use hormonal contraception, couldn't share their bed with anyone else, used natural detergents, and did not drink any alcohol or spicy food. When they were at their peak fertility, they stuck cotton pads in the armpits overnight to capture their scent, which men later sniffed and rated from 0 to 100.

Male scent has been shown to alter behaviour in women too. According to a study from earlier this year, published in the journal Experimental and Clinical Psychopharmacology, the way a man smells might have an impact on how much a woman drinks when she is with him.

The researchers concluded that this could be because of the cultural association between drinking alcohol and having sex. Alcohol suppresses psychological inhibitions that might put us off sex, and so a woman drinking more when she finds someone attractive may be because she likes the way he smells.

So although we already use perfume and aftershave to make us smell nice, according to research, your natural scent might be your best bet for attracting a partner - but only if they are biologically "right" for you.

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