Articles, Blog

What causes body odor? – Mel Rosenberg

August 17, 2019


A pungent blend of onions, cheese,
and cat urine with hints of… is that…wet goat? Most of us don’t need more than one whiff to identify that generally unpleasant,
characteristic smell we call body odor. But it’s a surprisingly complex phenomenon influenced by our genetic makeup,
age, diet, and hygiene. So what is this odor, exactly? Where does it come from? And can we do anything about it? To start, you just need two things
to produce that familiar scent: your armpit’s own secretions and the bacteria that feed on them. Most people associate
body odor with sweat, and it’s an important piece of the puzzle. Your body has millions of sweat glands,
and they come in two major types: eccrine glands are found
all over your skin and secrete mainly water and salt. Apocrine glands, on the other hand,
develop at puberty in your armpits and a few other places on your body. The sweat they secrete
is full of proteins and fats. By themselves,
these secretions are usually odorless. That’s where bacteria come in. Every square centimeter of our bodies
is covered with thousands of bacteria. Many microorganisms thrive
in moist environments, like our armpits. There, you can find about a million
bacteria per square centimeter, one of the highest concentrations
anywhere on the skin. Lurking in this throng of microorganisms
are species of Corynebacteria, Staphylococci, Micrococci, and others. When these bacteria feed on the proteins
and fats in apocrine sweat, they turn the odorless compounds into
new ones that can smell very unpleasant. Some of the worst offenders may be
sulfur-containing chemicals; those give body odor its oniony aroma. Carboxylic acids are in the mix, too,
adding notes of cheese. These molecules waft up from the armpit
and can be sucked directly into our noses, where they’re trapped and detected
by an array of specialized receptors. Those can recognize odor molecules at concentrations
of less than one in a million. So what determines how strong
your body odor might be? It depends on the resident microbial
populations in your armpit, and the nutrients that
your glands provide them with. Your genes help determine
what compounds you produce, and in what quantity, so everyone has a slightly different set. In fact, a gene variant that virtually
eliminates body odor is common in people of East Asian descent. Adrenaline increases the ratio
of apocrine to eccrine sweat, so body odor can be more intense
when you’re nervous. Bacterial composition and concentration
also varies between individuals and plays a part. Even what you eat can have
a small effect on how you smell. So how can we deal with body odor? Washing the armpits with soap and water
helps but won’t remove all the bacteria since many are buried
in deeper layers of the skin. Deodorants, however, inhibit bacterial
activity and mask odors at the same time. Antiperspirants work by forming tiny
gel plugs that block sweat glands, drying out the armpits. While we continue to battle body odor,
scientists are trying to understand it. We don’t know why the brain often interprets these particular
odors as off-putting. But some researchers have proposed
that secretions from the armpit could have a positive function, too, like cementing social bonds and providing a means
of chemical communication. We don’t know yet if that’s the case. For now, body odor seems to be just another smelly part
of the human condition.

100 Comments

  • Reply TED-Ed April 5, 2018 at 3:05 pm

    Help us keep exploring these questions and many more by supporting our nonprofit mission on Patreon! Find out how you can get involved at patreon.com/teded. Thanks, everyone!

  • Reply Jun January 30, 2019 at 10:52 am

    why can't science give us bacteria that can produce pleasant smell instead.

  • Reply krisu 07 February 2, 2019 at 2:13 pm

    My body odor smells bad And it started when i was then

  • Reply Adrian Swaby February 2, 2019 at 7:35 pm

    holly robinson Pete

    The BT Tower is a communications tower located in Fitzrovia, London, owned by BT Group. It has been previously known as the GPO Tower, the Post Office Tower and the Telecom Tower. The main structure is 177 metres high, with a further section of aerial rigging bringing the total height to 191 metres. Wikipedia

  • Reply Djeieiieiwiwiiwijdhdj Jwiwiiwiwkwjwj February 10, 2019 at 3:01 am

    There’s some sweat blocking injections you can take as well

  • Reply David Zhang Gaming quickscope king February 14, 2019 at 11:07 am

    it comes from Indians

  • Reply Dan February 14, 2019 at 3:51 pm

    I actually bathe only every other day, I live in a tropical country (Philippines) so it’s often humid and hot here, but I don’t have body odor even though sometimes I bathe only twice to thrice a week. How is that? (I dont have any east asian blood, all my grandparents are pure Filipinos)

  • Reply Candy Paint February 16, 2019 at 12:04 am

    I got my BO because my bestfriend and I have like the same shirt and the same size then I didn’t know that I wore her shirt. She have BO and when I got infected😂 it chaned my whole life because I have to struggle putting that powdery thing called tawas everytime I take a bath because if I didn’t put deodorant my armpits will smell stinky and it sucks.

  • Reply :P감자 February 16, 2019 at 3:26 am

    Lucky East Asians -_- no need to flex on us bc Y’all don’t stank xd

  • Reply Mr. Krabs February 19, 2019 at 2:08 pm

    is this something that i have to worry about

  • Reply Ebtehal Al-Subaie February 21, 2019 at 5:23 pm

    الصنان صار وسيله تواصل قال ايش قال ، جعلي ماتواصلت وابد مايجيب هالريحه الا اللي مايشيلون وتخت اباطهم غابات الامازون .. اع

  • Reply I am a person who just replied March 4, 2019 at 3:59 pm

    Baking Soda

  • Reply Joe T March 10, 2019 at 7:33 am

    I stopped wearing deodorant 2.5 years ago and I don’t have a body odor. I feel blessed.

  • Reply César Hernández-Meraz March 14, 2019 at 3:27 pm

    Poor boy. Just look at his faces whenever he sweats or starts smelling. (I'd make that face too if my body odor took the shape of a dark green cloud, I guess.)

  • Reply 1870 Preußen March 27, 2019 at 4:21 pm

    I wish my parents were east Asian but they are not so I smell 15 minutes later after showering

  • Reply Wendy Boone March 30, 2019 at 7:42 am

    anybody else try smelling themselves while watching this?!

  • Reply Bluechan Brioso April 6, 2019 at 2:29 am

    I hope my niece learn about this when she will hit puberty

  • Reply Cuddles the Cat April 6, 2019 at 3:03 am

    Is nobody gonna talk about the beginning quote?

    Me neither, no one wants to talk about them unless they’re puns.

  • Reply Cyandye April 6, 2019 at 7:42 am

    My pits only ever smell after about two days of no washing. Otherwise they’re absolutely fine.

  • Reply Neal Marriuz Fernandez April 12, 2019 at 3:35 am

    i have never used deodorant to my body up until now and all I can say is that, I don't stink nor smell bad! I just usually take a bath twice daily and then pamper myself with skincare essentials except for deodorant. I'm just 15 years old.

  • Reply Rwaggy Rwuper Rwinstincts April 12, 2019 at 5:42 pm

    How to get rid of body odor

    YOU CAN'T

  • Reply Maribel labindao April 13, 2019 at 5:44 am

    Cementing social bond a way to cummunicate

  • Reply Theo Byström April 17, 2019 at 4:15 pm

    Laughs in Korean

  • Reply Bachu Miah April 18, 2019 at 8:14 am

    Girl 👋 bye ! Talking about scientists think it cements social bonds? That’s the antithesis ! If u smell funky and musty you getting bleached clean in my relationship

  • Reply Nea Zy April 18, 2019 at 9:05 pm

    The animation 😂😂😂

  • Reply Hruaia Bawitlung April 21, 2019 at 8:18 pm

    Body odor aka Indian Perfume.

  • Reply Ucok CJ April 24, 2019 at 1:28 pm

    I'm an Indonesian. And I don't need to put more attention to my armpit smell or even my body smell. But I hate my foot smell after doing football😩

  • Reply NuttyYT Official April 30, 2019 at 4:55 am

    Try washing your pits with Benzoyl Peroxide found in acne wash. Works like a charm for me.

  • Reply Pavel Selingr April 30, 2019 at 1:04 pm

    Its true when you sweat its first ok but after 5 or 10 mins you are starting to smell

  • Reply User name May 3, 2019 at 6:26 pm

    Indians are you listening? No? Well please do!☺️

  • Reply Navaratnam Thirunavukkarasan May 5, 2019 at 5:23 pm

    Hi I have one question…. I used to be lazy and rarely do exercise…. So I don't usually have body odor….. But then over recent months I started gym and intense cardio…. I stated sweating more often and my sweat now has a smell…. Its not from the armpits bcuz armpit odor and my shoulder odor are different…. Any idea what I am secreting thru my shoulder and back glands? … This video is good…. I learnt new stuff… Thanks

  • Reply Dirty Wash May 6, 2019 at 11:50 pm

    Koreans still have body odor. That kimchi smell when they are sweating is intense. I asked what we smelled like. Burgers and eggs 🤣

  • Reply ניר שלום May 7, 2019 at 2:03 am

    3:31 . don't use too much deo, eventually it isn't natural and might couse bigger problem in the fuyure

  • Reply Massaharu May 9, 2019 at 8:51 pm

    well, i think i have that gene. because i dont have the minimal body odor you could think of

  • Reply Little Panda May 11, 2019 at 11:28 pm

    My armpits don't smell that bad but the sweat on my back smells bad!

  • Reply Addie Man May 13, 2019 at 5:43 pm

    Wanna know how to get rid of body odor?
    Dumpster dive!
    Then you wont smell any BO!!!!

  • Reply Red Butterfly May 15, 2019 at 2:10 pm

    Wtf armpit odor can create social bond? If i smell my frends armpit bad i will break the bond.

  • Reply Joks iZantos May 16, 2019 at 8:03 am

    I immedietly use an anti bacterial soap on my Armpit…

  • Reply Mark Dancel Sabalvaro May 18, 2019 at 12:18 pm

    Now the next time you ride the MRT, try guessing someones last meal! Briyani lover here! Berhati hati.

  • Reply Lakshmi Kimmu May 20, 2019 at 3:56 am

    This is why waxing is important. Having hairless armpits keeps the bacteria at bay too. Not only that but removing hair in unwanted areas (legs & privates) is also a good thing.

  • Reply June Of WRATH May 20, 2019 at 10:35 pm

    I always wondered why I'm always waking up musty. Be smelling like a Whataburger.

  • Reply Stacey P. May 22, 2019 at 10:12 pm

    Fun fact: don't have deodorant when you need some? Alcohol/hand sanitizer will do the trick! Kills the bacteria that causes the smell.

  • Reply lois boateng May 23, 2019 at 2:46 am

    People just need to take a fuckinnnn showerrr perioddttt !!!!!!!!

  • Reply KITIYA KLANMALEE May 23, 2019 at 7:53 am

    At first I thought the smell from the beginning of the video came from the man with the white hair’s beard

  • Reply Rinku Popley May 24, 2019 at 9:21 am

    Hi

  • Reply Thinking Brain May 25, 2019 at 6:13 pm

    Go vegan assholes, it works.

  • Reply Elaronna June 1, 2019 at 9:33 am

    Truthfully , I shower every single day. I use Anti perspirants. (Right Guard 48hr protection.) No matter how hard I scrub myself during my showers. Or how long I spray myself down with my deodorant spray… the minute I enter a public environment I begin to sweat like crazy. I honestly take it anymore it’s so depressing , people make harsh and rude comments everywhere I go and it really gets to me. As sappy and sad as this sounds I’m really not in need of sympathy I am in desperate need of advice. What products do you all use during your showers , what deodorants do you use aswell? How regularly do you wash your towels and how regularly do you change your bedding during the summer?

  • Reply Roblox Gamer June 1, 2019 at 2:55 pm

    I was looking for this question for 100 year

  • Reply eddie packard June 6, 2019 at 11:43 pm

    the bacteria are so cute

  • Reply Lukeland June 9, 2019 at 4:42 am

    But Does Armpit Colour Affect The Smell? Cause My Armpit Fluids Are Pure Sweat-Like Colour And My Arpmits Don't Smell ._.

  • Reply TraviTrail June 9, 2019 at 5:03 pm

    Asian people stink the worse …and they have the smallest penises of any mammal.

  • Reply Iain Mawhinney June 13, 2019 at 5:24 pm

    at least we can say it's bacteria farts, not us

  • Reply Fatima Khan June 14, 2019 at 1:19 pm

    Every nation has a different smell and odour.

  • Reply fargo loomis June 14, 2019 at 4:27 pm

    I’ve done a good bit of long distance hiking, the other hikers and myself smelled HORRIBLE! But we instantly formed a bond when we met other smelly hikers. It was an interesting time in my life.

  • Reply Manish Holla June 15, 2019 at 12:19 pm

    After watching this video I

    got Armpit Cancer

  • Reply Vary Olla June 17, 2019 at 1:06 pm

    Let the fungus be among us.  lol!

  • Reply Dharmi Panot June 17, 2019 at 7:50 pm

    If thoese bacteria would have farted at 1:57 i would have dies laughing and it would have been so cute… to watch em do that 🤣🤣….eating and farting to produce odours

  • Reply Average 7yearold June 19, 2019 at 7:34 pm

    My dad smells like farts and death

  • Reply Sumit Vijaykumar June 24, 2019 at 5:18 am

    wow lovely happy ending

  • Reply Pacers YT June 24, 2019 at 1:01 pm

    That's why i love this channel it answers my basic questions in life🔥

  • Reply Egbert June 25, 2019 at 7:21 am

    You.

  • Reply Kamoya K. June 25, 2019 at 7:25 pm

    This problem is usually faced by white people.😂

  • Reply Mr Cat June 26, 2019 at 9:58 am

    Me hold up my armpit trying to communicate with mr bro,
    he be like "wat r u doing?"

  • Reply Ds Tomar June 27, 2019 at 11:58 pm

    Make a video of control and coordination in our body

  • Reply Rayven Lebony June 29, 2019 at 2:26 pm

    my armpits smell like a baby shat their pants after eating cheetos….

  • Reply Lord Toc June 30, 2019 at 9:51 am

    My breath was really humiliating. It is very bad which I forced myself to just stay home After trying my dentist informed me, it just worked for a couple of hours. Now I was able to get a more fresh and clean breath. This stinky breath method “Kanzοzο Zato” (Google it) has literally finally given me my life back. .

  • Reply Revan July 2, 2019 at 9:26 pm

    who came here after sniffing their own armpits and enjoyed it and wondered how dafuk did this godgiven pleasure come to be?

  • Reply Soghi Tankoiko July 3, 2019 at 4:06 am

    Basically, Asian are mutan

  • Reply DIO Brando July 4, 2019 at 5:42 am

    “Hey, u smell like me”

  • Reply Johnathan Roan July 5, 2019 at 11:25 pm

    So it’s not our fault when we start to stink. I just happens

  • Reply jeffrey dac's July 6, 2019 at 12:22 pm

    Pakistani, Idian, srylankan and why can't they control thier under arm smell

  • Reply Gangster Bacon July 6, 2019 at 6:41 pm

    Stop sweating

  • Reply Aesthetically Aniya July 8, 2019 at 4:42 am

    i’m always told i smell like baby powder. so it’s my natural scent. :’)

  • Reply Lucien Grondin July 8, 2019 at 6:31 pm

    Fear smells. There is an obvious evolutionary explanation for that. It's also known by people from personal experience. See the French Wikipedia article on courage.

  • Reply Al Fa July 10, 2019 at 1:53 am

    my armpit smell like a death body, even i took a bath already.

  • Reply Sigma Geranimo July 10, 2019 at 9:21 am

    Facial face also have smell.
    just smell the arab people with beard that full of lice. 🤮🤮🤮

  • Reply Johnny Dogg July 11, 2019 at 6:22 pm

    Love the animations, plz keep them coming. Much love for the channel. God bless

  • Reply Johnny Dogg July 11, 2019 at 6:23 pm

    Theres a study that lemon kills that bacteria and smell but only to be used when you did not shave the arm pits.

  • Reply Cry baby Senpai July 16, 2019 at 4:52 am

    My armpit juice sweat goes down my arm and I put deodorant on and I take showers and I'm a pretty clean person

  • Reply Jade Rom Lucero July 17, 2019 at 5:03 am

    I use powder and my armpit still stinks.

  • Reply Genos ! July 17, 2019 at 10:26 am

    I can smell my cousin from 1 km

  • Reply Jamie Barrera July 22, 2019 at 3:15 pm

    I don't know why but my armpit don't smell as well as my feet after using shoes, and I don't use any perfume or any deodorant cuz I'm allergic to it..

  • Reply Linda The Necromancer of Light July 23, 2019 at 6:11 pm

    I heard the whole Chinese people don’t have body odor sweat but I lucked out. I have to wash my armpit throughout the day or I smell like a bum. Jelly of my mom who doesn’t use deodorant and doesn’t stink

  • Reply John R July 24, 2019 at 5:42 am

    Want to know if you need deodorant. Look no further than your earwax.
    https://www.theguardian.com/science/sifting-the-evidence/2013/feb/14/wasting-money-deodorant-ears

  • Reply Clyde Piper July 26, 2019 at 8:55 pm

    In a letter from Napoleon to Josephine – "…I'll be home in three days, do not bathe…"

  • Reply Row Kah July 27, 2019 at 7:35 pm

    Word of advice: Take a bath and use deodarants!

  • Reply Cha cha potato July 29, 2019 at 7:25 am

    I cut my armpit hair to stop smelling bad
    But it didn't work now my armpit hurts 😭

  • Reply James Eddy July 29, 2019 at 8:38 pm

    Never gave it much thought. Very Good.

  • Reply Sumin Park August 2, 2019 at 7:08 am

    Indians!

  • Reply Livelike Youareliving August 3, 2019 at 5:06 am

    Do you think my issue was caused by the shaver or by the shared product? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HXSFHFfWUyI

  • Reply Not Sure August 4, 2019 at 7:54 am

    I love the smell of sweat and stinky feet.

  • Reply Samara Morgan August 4, 2019 at 2:18 pm

    Now i know HOW it happens, how do i make it go away??

  • Reply Mirmo August 10, 2019 at 9:17 am

    Isopropyl alcohol will help

  • Reply Elaine Taylor August 11, 2019 at 2:47 am

    I had been able to remove my bad breath when I followed bad breath treatment method “Kanzοzο Zato” (Google it). Now I have so much more confidence because I can speak to individuals one on one without worrying about what kind of odour is coming out of my mouth! .

  • Reply jalena johnson August 13, 2019 at 11:47 am

    Nothing eliminates body odor more than lemon. Keep it on your armpit for 15 minutes than wash it off.

  • Reply Deniel kai Labine August 14, 2019 at 2:15 pm

    This guy smelled my armpits and it smelled awful.

  • Reply rhino ranger August 16, 2019 at 8:34 am

    I m not taking bath ever…

  • Reply A M August 16, 2019 at 5:59 pm

    Nice video & the animation is attractive .
    Thank You.
    1. Can deodorant destroy effect of pheromone ?
    2. How can a dog distinguish or identify different people by body odour ?

  • Reply Lúcio Main August 17, 2019 at 1:43 pm

    Thb I don't really want to know so peace

  • Reply Samy Zayn August 17, 2019 at 5:17 pm

    Use alum..its a life changer

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