why does my ear wax smell sweet
For many people, earwax is just another secretion from the human body that must be managed, lest it get out of hand, and clog up our ears. But cleaning our ears of these substances Б even though we should Б could be like throwing out important information. ThatБs because researchers
that earwax from different races also have specific odors, and therefore, can say something about the personБs health. The study, from researchers at the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia, looked into whether health information can be derived from earwax. Research has shown that a gene associated with a personБs tendency to have underarm odor, called ABCC11, is also related to the color and texture of their earwax. One variant of ABCC11, which is normally found in people of East Asian descent, leads to dry, white earwax and less body odor; while another variant of the gene, mostly found among people of African and European descent, causes earwax to be wet and yellow-brown in color, and is also more likely to cause body odor, according to. In studies that have linked body odor to disease, ABCC11 has been the link between the two.
For example, a 2009 study, published in, found that the variant of the gene that caused odorous armpits and wet earwax was also linked to an increased risk of breast cancer. БAs it turns out, the type of earwax one has is linked to a gene that leads to bad odors from oneБs armpit,Б said Dr. Gerald Weissmann, editor-in-chief of the journal, according to. БThese may become lifesaving clues to the early detection and treatment of breast cancer. Б Knowing this, researchers wanted to see if heated-up earwax could produce information regarding a personБs health. They took earwax samples from 16 men Б half were East Asian and half were white Б and heated them in vials until they started to release odors. These odors, molecularly known as volatile organic compounds (VOCs), were then analyzed through gas chromatography-mass spectrometry, which identifies each molecule. The tests showed that 12 VOCs were present among all them men. They also showed clear differences between the two ethnic groups, as 11 of the 12 VOCs were present at higher concentrations in the white men when compared to the Asian men.
БIn essence, we could obtain information about a personБs ethnicity simply by looking in his ears,Б lead author of the study Katharine Prokop-Prigge said in a. БWhile the types of odorants were similar, the amounts were very different. Б Because earwax is created from a mixture of secretions Б sweat and fat Б the researchers believe that it could be a source for spotting early stages of disease, as fat-soluble odorants emitted by diseases get caught in the secreted fat. The researchers noted that signs of both maple syrup urine disease and alkaptonuria Б also called black urine disease Б could be spotted in earwax before blood and urine tests found them. БOdors in earwax may be able to tell us what a person has eaten and where they have been,Б Dr. George Preti, an organic chemist at Monell, said in the statement. БEarwax is a neglected body secretion whose potential as an information source has yet to be explored.
Б Source: Prokop-Prigge K, Thaler E, Preti G, et al. Identification of volatile organic compounds in human cerumen. Journal of Chromatography B. 2014. As an Asian lady, I can't get over that people of African and European descent have moist earwax. I learned this years ago. I still can't get over it! I assumed everyone had earwax like me, so it was just too weird to learn otherwise. Don't know what I'm talking about? In 2006, scientists discovered there is a geneвindeed, a single letter in all of human DNAвthat determines whether people have wet or dry earwax. People of African and European ethnicity usually have the wet type. Nearly all people of Native American and East Asian ethnicity have the dry type. Now, scientists have made a second important discovery about my favorite gene. It also leads to earwax that smells different. Ugh, I know, right? But yes, a team of researchers from Pennsylvania gathered samples of earwax, baked them to get them to release their volatile compounds, then analyzed those compounds with gas chromatrography and mass spectrometry.
The earwax came from eight men of Asian descent with dry wax, and eight men of European descent with wet wax. All 16 guys' earwax released a dozen of the same chemical compounds upon heating. However, the amounts and proportions of the different compounds differed between them. Wet-wax guys had much greater amounts of 11 of the 12 compounds, which falls in line with previous studies' findings that the wet-wax gene is associated with greater body odor. The result also suggests wet wax is smellier. Gahh. So why do this research? In a to be published in the Journal of Chromatography B, the Philadelphia researchers explained they thought earwax could help tell future scientists more about people's diets, environments and physiology. They gave an example. Last year, biologists examined the to learn about the pollutants he'd encountered, his testosterone levels and his stress levels. Of course, the whale had much more earwax than a human does: Nearly 10 inches of it.
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