Thursday, April 8, 2010

Sniffing out your Mate

We all know that the sense of smell is a very powerful tool.  It tells you what is bad to eat, when there is danger (fire) and even enables you to remember specific memories in an instant.  But this sense goes far beyond mere memories...  It can tell you if you and your mate are genetically compatible!  I'm dead serious, it's scientifically proven that if a man smells bad to a woman, chances are his MHC receptors (pathogen detecting receptors on immune cells) are too genetically similar to the woman (science article 12, & 3).  You are probably thinking how is this so important?

(source =

Think of it like this...  Why is inbreeding bad????  Because you build up rare gene alleles (different forms of the gene) that lead to genetic disorders.  In a similar fashion, if you mate with someone who has the same receptors for infectious bugs (bacteria, viruses, & parasites) then you decrease the variety of receptors your children have making them more susceptible to infection by bugs you lack receptors for.  But if you mate with someone who has different receptors, it makes your children more evolutionarily fit and capable to handle a larger variety of infections.  So prior to things such as genetic testing...  the best way to detect compatibility was by the sense of smell!

So now you're thinking... alright, my mate smells good to me that's good for our future lil ones!  Well not quite...  It has also been shown that women on birth control have an impaired ability to smell too similar of a mate.  Yikes!  While on the hormone the woman's ability to smell shifts over time so that the mates they tend to find more attractive are those who have far too similar genetics.  Scary hun?  Especially considering that a large amount of the single mate seeking population is on birth control.  And if you are close to thirty, you've probably been on it for quite some time...

Now I'm not by any means suggesting drop the pill now to find your compatible mate.  But if you have found your mate and you worry about this, you could try getting off the pill for a bit and see if the smell is still good.  Or another alternative would be to seek genetic counseling if you were really afraid...  I'm just happy that I was extremely attracted to mine way before I ever picked up that little pill.

Association for Psychological Science (2010, January 18). Scent of a woman: Men's testosterone responses to olfactory ovulation cues. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 6, 2010, from

Boehm T, Zufall F (February 2006). "MHC peptides and the sensory evaluation of genotype". Trends in neurosciences 29 (2): 100–7. doi:10.1016/j.tins.2005.11.006PMID 16337283.

Miller SL, Maner Jon K. (February 2010).  Scent of a Woman: Men’s Testosterone Responses to Olfactory Ovulation Cues
Psychological Science  21: 276-283, first published on December 22, 2009 doi:10.1177/0956797609357733

Santos PS, Schinemann JA, Gabardo J, Bicalho Mda G (April 2005). "New evidence that the MHC influences odor perception in humans: a study with 58 Southern Brazilian students". Hormones and behavior47 (4): 384–8. doi:10.1016/j.yhbeh.2004.11.005PMID 15777804.

Weisfeld GE, Czilli T, Phillips KA, Gall JA, Lichtman CM. (2003). Possible olfaction-based mechanisms in human kin recognition and inbreeding avoidance. J Exp Child Psychol. 85(3):279–95. 

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