While you’re driving your two teenage kids to school, your daughter suddenly covers her nose before loudly protesting the horrible stench she smells. Immediately, your son accuses her of being a drama queen. He insists he doesn’t smell anything. If you can relate to differences in the ability to detect odors between the female and male members of your household, you’re not alone. Women are proven to possess a superior sense of smell. The reason for this phenomena may shock you.
A 2002 research study published in Nature Neuroscience exposed female and male participants to smells in a laboratory repeatedly. Researchers discovered women’s adeptness to perceive the odors increased an astounding 100,000 fold. The female participants could detect the scent at a concentration of 1/100,000 of the concentration they required at the start of the study. However, the average male participant displayed no improvement in his ability to sense the odor.
So, what explains the seemingly impossible differences in the sense of smell in females and males? The answer is in the make-up of the olfactory system, the structure you utilize to smell odors. Your nose is comprised of small receptors. These receptors transport their signals past the olfactory nerve to your olfactory bulb. The olfactory bulb is the initial destination in your brain consisting of data about smell.
You have two different types of brain cells. Due to the role they play sending information through electrical signals, neurons are deemed the most crucial. Glial cells are also important because they provide structure. They might also regulate the processing of information in your brain. In 2014, a study conducted by researchers at the University of Sao Paulo was published in PLOS One. During the study, researchers analyzed the noses of 18 subjects ranging in ages from 55 to 94 soon after their deaths. The results were astonishing. Researchers discovered women possessed 6.9 million neurons while men only had 3.5 million of them. Females were also found to have 9.3 million glial cells. Men only had 5.7 million of these beneficial cells.
The differences in the ability to smell odors, both pleasant and foul, can cause problems in male and female relationships. For instance, men might falsely assume the women in their lives are imagining odors or exaggerating them. Women might mistakenly believe the men they know are lying about not smelling something. Simply knowing the vast discrepancies in sensory perception between men and women can help you respect and trust someone of the opposite sex’s report of a scent.
Fortunately, regardless of whether you’re female or male, you can do some things to improve your sense of smell. Working out regularly can do more than boost your heart rate and whittle your waistline. In fact, your sense of smell is elevated after exercise. Researchers believe this phenomena might be due to increased levels of moisture in your nose. A zinc deficiency can contribute to a loss of smell. Therefore, ensuring you consume the recommended daily allotment of this mineral is vital. Foods rich in zinc include:
- Chuck roast
- Fortified breakfast cereals
In addition to contributing to a host of other health problems, long-term smoking can forever harm the olfactory nerves located in the back of your nose. So, if you’re a smoker, preserving your ability to detect scents is yet another reason to kick the habit. While you’re tossing out your cigarettes, you might want to get rid of alcoholic beverages too. Research shows people’s sense of smell plummets as their blood alcohol levels rise.
Wearing your seat belt and driving safely might also prevent your ability to sniff things from eroding. Automobile accidents, even seemingly minor ones, are a common cause of a loss of smell. Any type of impact can move your brain within your skull. When this occurs, the fragile nerve fibers connecting your nose to your brain can tear.
Hundreds of medicines, including antidepressants, statins, and high blood pressure drugs, can negatively affect your sense of smell. Ask your physician if any of the medicines you’re currently taking are known to impact your ability to detect scents. If so, talk with your doctor about available alternatives to your medications or the possibility of taking them in smaller doses. However, you should never quit taking your medicines or try to lower your dosages on your own.
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