Science

Could rubbing sweat on your armpits help with BO?

Something smells funny (Photographer: Graham Hellewell).

by Tanya Harrington

The average person has 2.6 million sweat glands in their body, most of which are concentrated on the bottom of their feet and areas such as the underarm. For some people, a genetic issue can cause their sweat to smell particularly bad. Sick of the scent? Bored of the BO? Then read on.

A new research study conducted by the University of California, San Diego, has suggested that perhaps sufferers of severe body odour needn’t splash the cash on expensive treatments or deodorants. Instead, all they may need is to rub the “more fragrant,” sweat of a family member into their underarm area.

The technique, known as the “bacteria transplant” was developed by the lead author of the study, Dr Chris Callewart. The concept of the bacteria transplant is founded in the idea that certain people cultivate different kinds of bacteria in commonly sweaty areas, some which are more smelly than others. By relocating a person’s less smelly sweat bacteria to the underarm area of those with a body odour problem, it could “trick” the body into reproducing it, instead of its own original bad-smelling bacteria.

Dr Callewart first tested his theory on a set of identical twins – one who had an extreme problem with body odour, and one who did not. The twin without the body odour problems was instructed to avoid washing for a total of four days, so as to cultivate as much of his bacteria as possible. In contrast, the twin who suffered from unpleasant body odour was advised to wash rigorously with an antibacterial soap in an effort to make his underarm area as free from bacteria as possible.

Dr Callewart then transplanted the sweat of the twin without a body odour problem onto the armpits of the one that did, and his theory was proven true. The technique greatly lessened the impact of the affected twin’s body odour, and the effects of this have reportedly lasted over a year.

The Doctor commented, “It’s still very experimental, but I’m sure it can work.” He may not be wrong – since the first experiment, the treatment has been trialled a total of seventeen times, with only one twin not experiencing any significant change in the scent of their body odour.

Body odour is largely a genetic problem, and many deodorants or treatments for the condition only provide temporary relief at best. However, if rubbing the sweat of a close family member under your arms doesn’t sound too appealing, there are always other things you can try to help with it. For example, cutting out fatty and oily foods from your diet and making sure you wear good quality, non-synthetic clothing has been said to help with the minimisation of unpleasant body odour.

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