NY Times (December 1, 1986)
Sexes - The Hidden Power of Body Odors|
Studies find that male pheromones are good for women's health
By John Leo
Reported by Robert Ajemian
Women who work or live together tend to get their menstrual cycles in sync.
That curious phenomenon known for years
by scientists and many ordinary folk, has long been suspected as an indication that humans,
like insects and some mammals, communicate subtly by sexual aromas known as pheromones.
Last week Philadelphia researchers weighed in with two reports showing that scents,
including underarm odors, do indeed affect menstrual cycles.
The reports came with a kicker:
male scents play a role in maintaining the health of women,
particularly the health of the female reproductive system.
Researchers at the Monell Chemical Senses Center and the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine have found
that women who have sex with men at least once a week are
more likely to have normal menstrual cycles, fewer infertility problems
and a milder menopause than celibate women and women who have sex rarely or sporadically.
So the researchers were hardly tentative about the meaning of it all. "What we're saying here is
that men are really important for women," said Winnifred Cutler, a biologist and specialist in behavioral
endocrinology who conducted the study along with Organic Chemist George Preti. "If you look at all the data,
the conclusion is compelling. A man or his essence seems essential for an optimally fertile system."
Nor did Cutler shrink from the commercial possibilities. "My dream," she said, "is that manufactured male essence,
in creams, sprays or perfumes, can dramatically alter the well-being of women."
In pursuit of that dream the Monell Center has filed applications for four pheromone patents.
The Japanese have purchased rights for
research and marketing of a pheromone-based product. U.S. rights are still available.
Preti thinks some manufacturers may rush in right now with some sort of essence,
even though the 200-odd chemical components of male and female odors have not been sorted out.
An effective commercial scent, he believes, is unlikely for three to five years.
The link between regular sex and the well-being of women's reproductive systems
has been explored in a series of studies by Cutler and various colleagues over the past eight years.
In the two current studies, researchers collected underarm secretions
from seven men and women to test further the effects of pheromones.
Cutler said a "soup" of aromatic essences was taken from
underarm pads worn by the volunteers for 18 to 27 hours a week over a three-month period.
Male essence, mixed with alcohol,
was applied to the upper lips of six women with abnormal menstrual cycles and no current sexual relationship.
Although researchers are not sure whether the pheromones were inhaled or absorbed through the skin,
the cycles of these women speeded up or slowed down toward 29.5 days.
The irregular cycles of six women in a control group, dabbed with only pure alcohol, remained the same.
In a second group, ten women who receive female essence showed a significant
trend toward synchronized menstrual periods after only a few cycles.
A control group showed no such change.
These studies show that the dabbed-on underarm odors have effects similar to those of regular sexual intercourse.
Cutler's earlier work on the effects of intercourse on female sexual health shows the physical presence of a man appears
to be necessary but the act of coitus may not be. Masturbation seems to have no effect at all.
Cutler and her colleagues found that regular sex eased problems of menopause
and infertility by making menstrual cycle more regular.
Still, she notes, " Now that we know this, it helps explain our earlier findings.
You might say that exposure to pheromones is the essence of sex."