‘Old person smell’ is a normal part of ageing – even if you wash lots

Does “old person smell” actually exist?

Many use the unflattering term to describe the elderly – but apparently, the scent actually has a scientific explanation.

A study published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology found the change in smell can be because of a chemical compound called 2-nonenal.

It’s caused by omega-7 fatty acids breaking down on the skin due to oxidisation.

And apparently, the body produces more of these fatty acids as it ages.

As anti-oxidant defences begin to deteriorate at the age of 40, more 2-nonenal is present on the skin, which may have an impact on body odour.

The study says: “Human body odor consists of various kinds of odor components.

“Here, we have investigated the changes in body odor associated with aging.

“The body odor of subjects between the ages of 26 and 75 was analyzed by headspace gas chromatography/mass spectrometry.

“2-Nonenal, an unsaturated aldehyde with an unpleasant greasy and grassy odor, was detected only in older subjects (40 y or older).

“Furthermore, analysis of skin surface lipids revealed that ω7 unsaturated fatty acids and lipid peroxides also increased with aging and that there were positive correlations between the amount of 2-nonenal in body odor and the amount of ω7 unsaturated fatty acids or lipid peroxides in skin surface lipids.

“2-Nonenal was generated only when ω7 unsaturated fatty acids were degraded by degradation tests in which some main components of skin surface lipids were oxidatively decomposed using lipid peroxides as initiator of an oxidative chain reaction.

“The results indicate that 2-nonenal is generated by the oxidative degradation of ω7 unsaturated fatty acids, and suggest that 2-nonenal may be involved in the age-related change of body odor.”

The presence of 2-nonenal is "nothing to do with personal hygiene" – it isn't water soluable so can’t be scrubbed off the skin when you wash.

According to Healthline, “old person smell” is perfectly normal and not anything to worry about.

But apparently, there are ways to reduce the amount your body is producing by tweaking your lifestyle.

Exercising regularly, getting a good night sleep and drinking lots of walker is said to be helpful.

As well as this, avoiding stress, smoking and boozing could be of use.

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