Instead of getting a whiff of gag reflex, the women felt something else entirely: attraction. They were drawn to T-shirts with the most different genes or MHC compositions from themselves; and rejected the ones with the most similar composition. The study's results suggest females possess an instinctual olfactory superpower to choose partners.
“This opposite attraction makes perfect biological sense because it would give any offspring produced by the union a stronger immune system,” says Dawn Maslar, a biologist and researcher.
But in a Chinatown-like surprise twist, a 2002 study contradicted these results; instead, it found women to be attracted to T-shirt aromas that were most similar to their MHC genetic makeup, aka their dad’s smell. Though it sounds super-gross, this biological urge to hook up with someone with similar (but not identical) genes isn’t necessarily a bad thing -- because you can avoid diluting strong genes.
Whichever study you prefer, the bottom line is that we are drawn to certain people's smells for different reasons. And that line of thinking is what spawned Smell Dating, the very first (though certainly not the last) mail-odor dating service that matches people based on scent.
The sweet smell of sweat
Sure, freshly baked cookies straight out of the oven smell good. But your man’s freshly baked sweat? Now that smells amazing. The secret ingredient is androstenol. Consider this the “Magic Mike” of the pheromone show -- it’s sweat’s main attraction and, some believe, the primary reason you might be turned on by a gym-addicted meathead.
If living at 24 Hour Fitness isn’t your thing, try chomping on celery or truffles (of the mushroom variety). According to Dr. Manny Alvarez, consuming these veggie-disguised aphrodisiacs helps your sweat glands release more androstenol.
While the scientific jury is still out on the legitimacy of pheromones, many are convinced these undetectable human secretions are basically a real-life love potion No. 9. You can even buy these odorless chemical compounds by the bottle from sites like Human Pheromone Project, which calls itself a science-based company and even offers a 100% satisfaction guarantee (you know, in case something smells fishy).
Scent of a woman
BREAKING NEWS: Ron Burgundy got it wrong. It’s not bears that “can smell the menstruation” -- it’s men. That's according to a recent study in which men were able to distinguish between fertile and infertile ladies. Similar to the sweaty T-shirt study, men were tasked with smelling used T-shirts of women at different points in their menstrual cycle. The majority of the men found the clothing worn by women on their period as the most pleasing.