Keep eyes open to importance of having a healthy noseSome human sense organs are incredibly sentient. The human eye, for example, can detect differences in light intensity as small as 1 percent. The nose, by comparison, is rather dull. Most noses can sense a difference in scent only when there is more than a 30 percent change in the chemical’s density in the air.
While smell may be the most degenerated of the five senses, a recent analysis of the human genome suggests that it might be one of the most important. Olfactory receptor proteins, which interact with odorant molecules in the nose to initiate a neural response that triggers the perception of a smell, make up one of the largest gene families. About 900 out of the 30,000 human genes are olfactory receptors.
This means that a person is theoretically capable of discerning between as many as 100,000 different smells. In reality, even top sommeliers and barristers are able to distinguish between several thousand wines or coffees.
Patrick Suskind, a German author, writes in his book “Perfume” that scents move the world, triggering instinctual energy, memories and sexual desire. If there is somebody that charms you, Mr. Suskind says it may be his unique smell that draws you to him.
Indeed, a recent study by Birmingham Science Museum found that men are more likely to be attracted to women who smell similar to the man’s mother, whereas women tend to be drawn to men who smell similar to their fathers.
The British science journal Nature recently published research results suggesting that a woman’s menstrual cycle can change slightly if she catches a whiff of her own underarm odor.
Nature Genetics, another science magazine, printed a study from The Rockefeller University in New York City that isolated and mapped the genome of pheromone, a hormone that induces sexual desire through smell.
Based in part on the Rockefeller study, there is a growing consensus among medical experts that when people pair up romantically, they do so in part as an instinctive reaction to their partner’s smell.
Many experts also say that smelling pleasing aromas makes people feel happier.
The nose, apparently, is vital to life in many ways. So what can you do to keep it healthy?
First, if you have the flu or a bad cold, do not leave it untreated for too long. That will gradually deaden the sensory nerves of your nose and could lead to a smell impairment, meaning you would not be able to smell things like garlic, flowers or vinegar.
Several treatments are available for smell-impaired patients, but none of them is very appealing. The most effective involves receiving a stellate ganglion block, which means an injection of a local anesthetic in the side of the neck, after which the doctor or technician would clear the fluids blocking the olfactory nerves. Ten to 20 treatments are needed for patients with severe illnesses, and each treatment costs 20,000 won ($17) to 30,000 won.
A less-painful alternative is to consume small quantities of zinc. An American science magazine recently published a study that found that zinc plays an important role in restoring olfactory nerves damaged by prolonged flu. Zinc can be found in oysters. Perhaps it is more than a coincidence that oysters, which have long been touted as a boost to the libido, help restore the damage to the olfactory system.
Most experts also recommend using perfumes, whether cosmetic or aromatherapy, that are as low-density as possible.
Perfumes can make people feel good. But when they are too strong, they can also induce headaches, fatigue, indigestion and even insomnia. And that’s nothing to sniff at.
by Hong Hye-geol