New paper on the scent of attractiveness: levels of reproductive hormones explain individual differences in women's body odour
Janek S. Lobmaier, Urs Fischbacher, Urs Wirthmüller, Daria Knoch
Individuals are thought to have their own distinctive body odour which reportedly plays an important role in mate choice. In the present study we investigated individual differences in body odours of women and examined whether some women generally smell more attractive than others or whether odour preferences are a matter of individual taste. We then explored whether levels of reproductive hormones explain women's body odour attractiveness, to test the idea that body odour attractiveness may act as a chemosensory marker of reproductive fitness. Fifty-seven men rated body odours of 28 healthy, naturally cycling women of reproductive age. We collected all odours at peak fertility to control for menstrual cycle effects on body odour attractiveness. Women's salivary oestradiol, progesterone, testosterone and cortisol levels were assessed at the time of odour collection to test whether hormone levels explain body odour attractiveness. We found that the men highly agreed on how attractive they found women's body odours. Interestingly, women's body odour attractiveness was predicted by their oestradiol and progesterone levels: the higher a woman's levels of oestradiol and the lower her levels of progesterone, the more attractive her body odour was rated. In showing that women's body odour attractiveness is explained by levels of female reproductive hormones, but not by levels of cortisol or testosterone, we provide evidence that body odour acts as a valid cue to potential fertility.