You have surely already felt the peculiar smell of elderly people, and even though they can use fragrances and deodorants to mask it, this scent remains. Note that this smell is completely natural and is nothing to be ashamed of it, as we will all wear it someday.
Scientists have tried to understand the reason for this smell for decades, and recently, they’ve dug up an interesting explanation for this phenomenon.
Our metabolism rates change drastically as we age, and the skin, the largest body organ, is greatly affected. Therefore, this natural smell is a result of the breakdown of certain chemicals below and on the surface of the entire skin.
This catabolic reaction releases odoriferous molecules into the atmosphere. The most highly-secreted chemical that results in this smell is a compound known as 2-nonenal, released from the breakdown of fatty acids by oxygen.
In 2000, Japanese researchers conducted several experiments that found that its secretion is much higher in the elderly. The main experiment involved twenty-two persons between the ages of 26 and 75, who wore short while sleeping, all of the same fabric. People older than 45 were found to secrete much more 2-nonenal more than their younger counterparts.
In 2012, the Swedish neuroscientist Johan Lundstrom led another ground-breaking experiment in Philadelphia. He tested 44 people, separated into three classes. Class A involved people between the ages of 20 and 30, class B people between the ages of 45 to 50, and class C was for ages 75 to 90.
Each participant had a foam pad with high retaining power stitched into the shirts in which he slept for 5 days. These foam pads were later collected and arranged in jars according to the age groups.
The youngest subjects were asked to guess which age group had which jar, and they quickly identified the jar of class C. Yet, they were not able to tell classes A and B apart as easily.
According to AgingCare.com:
“Just like traditional body odor, following a healthy lifestyle can help to minimize nonenal. This includes exercising regularly, avoiding stress, abstaining from smoking, drinking alcohol in moderation, eating a clean diet, drinking plenty of water and getting enough rest.
When it comes to personal hygiene products, conventional soaps in the United States use many different deodorants to eliminate unpleasant odors, such as ammonia (found in urine), trimethylamine and sulfide oxygen (found in feces and urine), propionic acid (found in sweat) and isovaleric acid (a smelly component of foot odor). However, these ingredients are not effective at eliminating or neutralizing nonenal.
One Japanese skincare brand claims to have found a botanical combination that does the trick: persimmon and green tea. The tannins in persimmon extract help to break down and wash away nonenal, and the antioxidants in Japanese green tea are believed to detoxify the skin and extend the deodorizing effects. The company offers this combination in many different forms, such as bar soap, body wash and even fabric spray.”
Despite the secretion of 2-nonenal, this smell in the elderly can also be a result of dehydration, the constant use of medication, such as drugs for arthritis, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, discomforts of menopause, thyroid issues and lots more, as well as irregular baths, especially in people suffering from rheumatism and arthritis.